Phone Interviews

Recently, one of my clients shared his experience with a phone interview that he was thrilled to receive. As the interview proceeded, Ben found he was talking to someone on a cell phone in rush hour traffic. The recruiter asked Ben to hold while he avoided rear ending the vehicle in front of him. Yes, you never know who is on the other end of the call, so remember the Boy Scout motto and “be prepared.”

Phone interviews are a common practice among recruiters as they save time and offer screening opportunities. So, it’s up to the job searchers to prepare for and execute the call presenting themselves in the best light. When you are job hunting, it’s a lot like being “on call.” Being aware of the positions you have applied for and anticipating calls from prospective employers is your responsibility. Knowing this, you need to know how to handle a call when an employer might call and you are stepping out of the shower, at your current job, or driving your child to the dentist. Especially with our use of cell phones, calls can find us just about anywhere, anytime.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for a phone interview.

- Each call may not be the perfect time or place, but remember, a call is better than no call. Some of the phone interviews will be scheduled in advance and allow you to be composed. Other interviews might be an inconvenience and you will have to be extemporaneous.

- Be organized with your thoughts and know what your resume says. If you are asked about your prior experience or training, have a good handle of who you are and what you have done. Remember brevity is best, keep your responses concise.

- Program your answering machine or cell phone so the caller feels you are a serious candidate. This is not the time to be too entertaining with your answering machine unless you are applying for a comedian position.

- Have your calendar nearby in case the caller wants to schedule a phone interview with you. The phone interview may take 10 minutes or an hour, so allow yourself enough time and make sure you will be in a quiet place for the call.

- A recruiter might call you and ask if this is a good time to talk. If so, find a quiet place to sit and be with caller. The call requires your complete attention. If it is not a good time for the interview, you can ask if there’s a time for you to return the call. This might be agreeable, but be aware that some recruiters want to talk to you at their convenience and may not want to call back. You have to decide if you’re up for it and be ready to “think on your feet.” Some work environments have a more volatile pace or pressure cooker atmosphere. This could be a test to see if you are up for the challenge.

- If you have a phone interview scheduled using your cell phone, remember to have your phone battery charged. At the beginning of the interview, ask the caller if your voice is clear.

- Log the calls. Record who you spoke with, the date, and notes of the conversation.

Phone interviews can be useful for you and recruiter. In the end, you both save time and each of you can get a sense of “the job fit.” Each time you interview, you get a little savvier, so relax, be yourself, and be professional. Remember, you are saving gas money and don’t have to dress up!