How to Use a Phone Interview to Build Rapport and Win the Job
As a job applicant notified of a phone interview, you have just survived the culling of the herd by resume screeners, taking you one step closer to your goal of a job offer. It is essential to grab this opportunity for all it’s worth and make yourself a stand-out candidate in the interviewer’s mind.
Employers’ Phone Interview Goals
Employers conduct phone interviews for several reasons:
- To get a better handle on applicants’ knowledge and personalities
- To target those who seem best suited to their needs and corporate culture
- To cut down on hiring expenses for travel, while still including out-of town candidates
The bottom line for employers is that phone interviews reduce the number of candidates invited for in-person interviews, streamlining the hiring process to focus on only the best applicants in the final stages of the process.
How to Handle the Initial Contact
Applicants can be advised of their phone interview schedule by mail, email, or phone. The first two are passive contacts where you and company representatives have no direct interaction.
However, when the company contacts you by phone, it is important to be professional even if the call comes at a bad time. For this reason, its a good idea cants to remind roommates or family members that job-related calls may ring through on any shared phones.
You should make an effort to be perky and sound really interested in the company, even when just scheduling a phone interview. Clarify the date and time schedule of the phone interview. You can ask for the names of the interviewers and who else might be listening in on the call.
How to Prepare for the Phone Interview
Like any interview, a successful phone interview requires preparation. Review the job description as provided in the employment ad referenced in the application. Be prepared to match your skills and qualities with the requirements listed.
Quantify achievements in previous jobs when possible. For instance, instead of claiming credit for sales growth, specify how much sales improved. Have important information like this written down and handy during the phone interview.
Find out as much information as possible about the company. Use reliable sources including corporate websites, government agencies and trade journals. Know the key strengths of the company, because this knowledge can be useful during the interview.
Some websites may include sample questions specific to the company, contributed by current and former employees. Study these questions and rehearse possible answers.
Have someone play along as interviewer, and record the mock interview. Listen to the recording, and determine what vocal improvements are necessary. Pitch, tone and delivery must come across as friendly, interested and natural.
If the interviewer’s name is known, research the person’s web presence. Try to find common ground with the interviewer‘s background. Having something in common with the company’s representative will definitely get a foot in the door provided the information is introduced at the proper time. Use social media to track down information about the interviewer, but do this selectively, as some of these sites let their members know if anyone has searched the database for their name.
The Phone Interview
These tips should help you stay organized and make a good impression in your phone interview:
- Before the scheduled interview, find a quiet room to hold the phone session. Request that all family members, pets, and roommates vacate the selected area until the interview is over. Close and lock the door if possible.
- Turn off call waiting to avoid any interruptions. If possible, use a landline instead of a cell phone to avoid missed calls and bad connections. Make sure your cell phone is on silent so it doesn’t ring during the interview.
- Be prepared, and stay organized. Line up the files and papers near the phone. These references should be within grabbing distance in case the information is required during the phone interview.
- Even with phone interviews, punctuality is a plus. Be prepared to answer the phone at the appointed time. Use a professional tone and formal greeting when answering. Smile during the interview to project a perkier personality.
- Always address the interviewer formally unless specifically directed to use a first name.
- Use a normal, friendly tone when speaking and enunciate each word as clearly as possible. Stick to concise answers and do not interrupt the interviewer for any reason. It is okay to have a few seconds lull to flesh out an appropriate answer to an interview question. Dead air is preferable to grunting and mumbling to fill up the time.
- Demonstrate preparedness by having resume in hand; research notes at the ready. Have a list of questions about the job ready in case an opportunity arises to learn more about the corporation.
Thank the interviewer at the conclusion of the session. Then thank the interviewer again by mail or email. More contact with the interviewer and hiring manager will draw attention to you, boosting your chances of inclusion in the short list of candidates who will make it to the final round of interviews.