Sharp Decisions’ 6 Tips for Effective Phone Interviews

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Job postings often result in hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants. Once recruiters or Human Resources professionals have done their initial sifting through those resumes, (see our resume formatting tips), they often use phone interviews to further narrow down the applicant pool.

Your performance in a phone interview is critical to progressing through the hiring process. This latest post in our Interview Stress Reduction (ISR) series offers some tips for future phone interview success. Here are a few of the topics we cover with our candidates before they have a phone interview with one of our clients.

  1. Don’t use your cell phone. Time is always critical when you’re applying for a role – whether directly or through a company like Sharp Decisions. It’s safe to say that everyone has experienced a dropped call, but now imagine if your call drops while you’re in the middle of an interview. Hit a five or ten-minute dead zone while driving, and you just might afford the next interviewee in line an opportunity he or she may not have otherwise gotten, and you’re stuck apologizing and trying to reschedule. We advise all of our candidates to avoid cell phones at all cost. Landlines may seem antiquated, but they are (if anything) reliable. Don’t take the risk of losing valuable time, and looking bad in the process.
  2. Be concise. Rambling in any interview is a bad idea, and especially so during a phone interview. Remember how quickly you tuned out your aunt or grandma as they blathered on about their cat or their bunions? Now, imagine you’re an interviewer who has to speak to dozens of candidates. Put yourself in their shoes. No matter how interesting you think your story is, you’ll lose the interviewer’s interest in no time if you don’t keep your responses short and objective.
  3. Find the flow. Phone conversations can be awkward in general, and when you throw in interview nervousness, unexpected questions, and dead air into the experience, it can generate some unwanted results. Awkward pauses can disrupt a great interview, but continually cutting off an interviewer can end it before your interview even gets rolling. We like to tell our candidates to always listen carefully, and take a breath before asking or answering a question. This helps them relax, anticipate the interviewer’s timing, and lead a strong, well-paced conversation. If you do happen to interrupt, quickly apologize and move on.
  4. Feel free to “cheat.” You’re on the phone, not in an office, so use this to your advantage. It’s perfectly more than okay to have your resume in front of you during the call. Write down the interviewer’s name. Pull up the company’s website. Prepare notes and take notes. A phone interview is the equivalent to an open-book exam, and you should take every opportunity to use the format to your advantage. Do be careful—if you have too many distractions your focus can suffer.
  5. Set the stage. Phone interviews are, by nature, far more casual that a typical on-site meeting. You’re not sitting face-to-face, in an unfamiliar setting, wearing a stuffy suit that you wear only when you’re interviewing. So make your surroundings comfortable. Have a glass of water or tea or coffee nearby. Sit in your favorite chair, light a candle – whatever it takes to get into a calm, focused state of mind. And by all means, keep the kids and pets as far away as possible.
  6. Have fun. Don’t be a response robot. If you sense that the interviewer is open to engaging a bit more on a social level, then go for it – in a measured way, of course. If you’re personable and enjoyable to speak with over the phone, they’ll want to see you in person. Ask them how their day is going, or maybe how long they’ve been with the company. Nothing too deep. Sometimes a little friendliness can reveal common ground or mutual acquaintances, and turn what would have been a 15-minute interview into a 30-minute conversation, which certainly won’t hurt your cause.

Apply these tips, and you’ll increase your chances for phone interview success. If you need help finding your next contract or permanent career opportunity, our career center has current job listings, and our blog is filled with tips to help you secure your next great job opportunity.


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