Originally posted on Saturday, July 09, 2011 1:55 PM
In a recent poll of Fortune 500 employers, 95% said that they always conduct a telephone screening interview prior to inviting the candidate to meet face to face. When asked the purpose of such a phone interview, they pretty much unanimously responded: to screen out less qualified candidates and to ascertain (as well as possible) if the candidate may be a good fit for the position. Based on the information learned from this poll, it seems that the Telephone Interview is a VERY important part of the Job Search Strategy. Knowing how to prepare for and maneuver a successful phone interview is extremely important tool for today’s Job Hunter. Here are some very practical yet useful steps you can take to prepare for this monumental step in the job hunting process.
1. Absolutely make certain that you have an answering machine and that it has a professional recording on it. Having an “unusual” message is a big turn off to hiring employers. More than likely they would hang up rather than leave a message on a recording that is inappropriate or silly. And, of course this is an opportunity lost.
2. Make certain that you alert your housemates, children, friends, or spouse to answer the phone professionally and to take meaningful and legible messages. Making a mistake on the name of a caller or jotting a wrong phone number can mean the possible loss of an interview.
3. Designate a place in your home where you can have privacy to speak to employers and set it up like a professional office as much as possible. Make sure you have note pads and pens, a clock, free of rock music or TV noise so that you can conduct a professional phone conversation.
4. Consider the phone interview just as or more important than the face to face. After all, if you do not wow them here, you won’t be getting a face to face. Be prepared. Have the Job Description in front of you and review it thoroughly. Do your research on the company and the interviewer. Use the company web site as well as registries like Hoovers and Dun and Bradstreet. Check out the interviewer by Googling them, using the company website and using a social media site like LinkedIn. You may have something in common with the interviewer that will give you points like: graduating from the same college or being from the same hometown.
5. Have a list of commonly asked questions that you have answered at your fingertips also. Make sure you go over these several times and talk out loud when you answer the questions. It may be beneficial to record your practice exercise and take note of where you need to be stronger or less intense, etc.
6. During the interview call, stand up. Make sure you are calm and not breathing too heavily. An interviewer will take this as a sign of nervousness. Your speech should be clear, audible and not too fast. Remember you are trying to present yourself as a professional and communication skills are being evaluated.
7. At the end of the phone call, remember to ask for the next step. Make sure you ask who, what, where, and when. Also try to ask if you will get a call back. This is difficult because it takes a lot of courage and risk of rejection. However, it is a perfect time to get important feedback. It is possible that something you said may have been misinterpreted and this gives you an opportunity to correct any misconceptions. Write out your ending: “May I ask what the next step in the process is? Will you be recommending me on for the next step? If not, may I know why not?” Here is where you can hopefully fix any negative misunderstandings. Finally, end the conversation by thanking the caller and letting them know it was a pleasure to speak to them and that you are extremely interested in pursuing the position. Get their email address if you don’t already have it and follow up with a professional email again reiterating your interest in the company and the position and giving them a key point in the phone interview that reinforces you are a stellar candidate.
Follow these steps and the chances of a face to face interview will be noticeably improved!!
As always – Best of luck on your job search!!
Owner and operator of HR Pros, LLC, an HR consulting company handling full HR services on a project basis: writing policies, procedures, and handbooks; providing recruitment and talent management expertise; employee relations projects, and training for mostly small to mid-sized employers.