Phone Interviews: A Guide for Good First Impressions

More often than not, an employer will begin the interview process with a preliminary phone screen. A quick phone call makes sense to see if the candidate is credible, generally has the right experience, and has a decent personality.  And, quite frankly it can help weed out the not-so-great candidates saving everyone from a painful and/or disastrous in-person meeting.

By the time you are selected to phone interview, your perspective employer has likely studied your resume and is intrigued by your background. You have already made a good first impression, on paper, but the “real” first impression will come from that first 15 to 30-minute phone interview. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Phone interviews can make or break the interview process and a common misconception in phone screening is that you don’t really need to prepare all that much. It’s just a call. We are here to tell you, that you DO need to prepare for a phone screen, and some of us would even argue that you need to prepare just as if you would for an in-person interview.

Phone interviews can be tricky. So much of a good conversation relies on non-verbal cues, body language, and facial expressions from all parties involved. This is not a luxury that you can fall back on in a phone interview, so you need to “wow” your interviewer with what you have to say and how you say it in a limited amount of time. How do you do this successfully? We are here to help!

  • Prepare: This will not likely be a long conversation, so preparation is imperative. And the best part about phone interview preparation? You can create a cheat sheet of notes to have on-hand to refer to at any time and your interviewer will be none the wiser. Here are some pointers:
    • Know the job description, inside and out and have it on-hand for the call.
    • Jot down the key points that you want to relay to your interviewer. These ideas should be well thought out because time is of the essence.
    • Your interviewer may want to walk through your resume, so be sure to have it on hand.
    • Do your research. Make sure you’ve researched the company and the interviewer.
    • If you are given the opportunity to ask questions, make sure you have a few good options in mind. For a list of great questions, click here: Questions to Ask in an Interview

For more information on how to best prepare for an interview, check out our recent blog post on interview preparation: https://horizontalintegration.blog/2018/11/08/5109/

  • Be concise: A phone interview is not the time to ramble and veer off on multiple tangents. Practice speaking directly to your key contributions and/or skills in a clear and concise manner and be sure to answer each question thoughtfully. Remember, it is completely OK to pause for a second or two to gather your thoughts or peek at your notes.
  • Practice speaking: Practice speaking and consider recording yourself. See how you sound. Do you sound engaging? Do emotions, such as a smile, come through in your voice inflection? Do you sound confident?
  • Make sure your environment works. By this we mean, make sure you are in a quiet place with no distractions. Use a landline if possible. If you are taking the call from your mobile phone, make sure it is adequately charged and that you have good reception.
  • Prepare yourself: We’ve said this before, when you look good, you feel good and when you look sharp, you’ll likely feel more confident. Now, we are not necessarily suggesting that you take your phone interview wearing a 3-piece suit, but it’s a not a bad idea to put a little effort into your appearance and sit at a table versus lounging on your comfy couch in your pajamas.

First impressions are critical, and a phone interview will be yours. So, impress your potential employer, leave them wanting more, and compel them to invite you into the office for that sought-after in-person interview.

Happy chatting!