While months ago a phone interview was usually reserved for a perfunctory screening of candidates before they were brought in for a face-to-face interview, phone interviews seem poised to play a more crucial part in the hiring process as long as COVID-19 is around.
1. Be clear on the details
Pay attention to the details. Here are a few things you’ll want to know before the interview begins:
- If you are using a cellphone, make sure it is fully charged, turned on and able to receive calls (for example, make sure airplane mode is disabled).
- Have the interviewers’ phone number. This is critical in the event the call drops. Having a phone number and a brief conversation before the interview to clarify what should happen if the call gets disconnected will save you a lot of headaches.
- Know the time of the interview, as well as what time zone your interviewer is calling from. It’s easy to mix-up the time of the interview without this information.
- Gather the names of everyone you’ll be speaking with, their job titles and the role they perform at the company. If you get their name, you can even do some brief research online to glean info on their career trajectory, or see if you have any connections in common before the call.
- How long is the interview expected to last? You’ll want to have extra time on either side of the call in case your interviewer is running late or the call runs over.
2. Set the scene
You don’t want to be distracted or uncomfortable on the call, so fine-tune your environment.
- Make sure you’re calling from a room with no background noise. Close the window. If you have a fan, turn it off. The interviewer must be able to hear you.
- Make yourself comfortable. To get in the right headspace, tweak your environment to your liking. If you prefer a chill atmosphere, set up a little workstation at your couch. If you communicate best when you’re active, find a place to pace.
- Although, they can’t see you so do what makes you comfortable. However, make sure you never stray too far from a pen and paper. You should also have a glass of water nearby just in case your throat gets dry.
3. Write a list of questions to ask the interviewer
This step is crucial and requires a bit of research. There’s nothing worse than getting asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview and coming up empty-handed. Not having questions ready makes a candidate look unprepared or uninterested in the role, neither of which is the impression you want to give a recruiter. To prepare questions, read the job description closely to understand what’s expected of the position and come up with thoughtful questions. Here are three questions you might want to ask during your next phone interview:
- What is your top priority for the person who accepts this job?
- How do you see this position developing over time?
- What do you enjoy most/least about working here?
4. Have a printed copy of your resume and cover letter ready or open on your screen
Whether you blank on your work history or need to properly name your certifications, having a copy of your resume in front of you is great for jogging your memory or generating ideas. Have a copy nearby at all times, as well as a pen, so you can jot down notes in the margins and refer to important bullet points as the call progresses. Also, having a printed copy of the cover letter you provided with your application is a good idea in the event that the hiring manager references it during the call.
5. Smile and talk slowly
You want your interviewer to know you’re paying attention, but of course, a simple nod of the head you’d use in a live setting doesn’t work in a phone interview. So give the occasional “yes,” or “okay” to show you’re still listening.
On the phone, you can’t pick up on someone’s body language or facial expression, which is a major disadvantage. Because you’re missing out on important social and physical cues, you’re more likely to accidentally interrupt the interviewer. You can lessen your chances by speaking slowly and allowing full pauses after thoughts.
At the same time, you want your enthusiasm for the role to shine through, so smile. A smile changes the way your voice is projected. Not convinced? Research shows that not only can people hear a smile, they unconsciously smile back. Employers want to feel like you want the job, and the best way to do that is by sounding happy and excited to be chatting with them. A smile, even over the phone, goes a long way towards expressing your interest.