How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

marketing executive recruitment strategy

After you know how to prepare for an interview you can learn some specifics about the phone interview.

How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

The phone interview is inherently challenging as you lose the non-verbal feedback you receive in a face-to-face interview.  Ultimately this leads to some common mistakes.

Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Do NOT under any circumstances have the pages of notes you have created about your career in front of you when you interview.  You do not want to use the notes as a crutch, you do not want to be fumbling through paper looking for an answer and most of all you do not want to sound like you are reading the answer.
  2. Be in a quiet place where you can focus on nothing but the interview.  Door closed.
  3. Do not be doing anything else, watching the news, sending an instant message, checking e-mail.  The interviewer deserves your undivided attention.  Television off, computer off, cell phone off.
  4. Make the call from a land line.  Nothing ruins a phone interview faster than a dropped cell phone call.
  5. Be formal, interviews are naturally a formal process.  You need to be at least as formal on the phone as you would be in person.  Leave the sarcasm and wit for after you already have the job.
  6. Do not feel the need to fill up every moment of silence with the sound of your voice.  Answer the question, fully and completely, demonstrating results / achievements and be quiet.  The interviewer is now deciding which question to ask you next, a common mistake at this moment is to get nervous due to the silence and spend the next 30 minutes giving the interviewer a running commentary on your life since age 2.  I have never seen this work very well, I have seen candidates do this after I have warned them not to.
  7. Do have 4 or 5 questions prepared for the end of the interview.  You should have approximately 3 questions prepared related to the company and the job.
  8. Most importantly, close the interview showing you are results oriented, you are interested in the job and ask for the next step.  While you are at it, go ahead and learn what the real job description is:

Phone Interview Final Questions: Separate Yourself from the Others!

The final two questions I want you to ask after you come up with two or three of your own.  The 2 or 3 of your own will be around the job / company / opportunity.  These are the standard questions about products, job, scope of responsibility, etc.

The final two questions are important, just like an in person interview, people will remember the beginning and the end.  Your goal at this point in time is to be invited in for an in person interview.  Do not put the cart before the horse and ask for the job, they do not have enough data on you to award it yet.

The last question you want to ask the interviewer will vary based on who you are interviewing with hiring manager or human resources.

Time is precious in the interview and asking the right questions is as important if not more important than answering questions well.  Assume you are competing against other talented professionals and everyone will have strong answers for the interviewer, so far you are only equal to the others.  Now is an opportunity to separate you from the pack.  You will not receive the same amount of time to ask questions that the interviewer will so let’s make sure the questions you do ask really count.

Hiring Manager:

Second to last question – [FIRST NAME], I really appreciate your time today.  The [INSERT JOB TITLE HERE] role is one I am very excited about, it is a great next step for my career.  I believe I can really come in and add value to the role and the team.  Let’s look out 12 to 18 months and assume I have been able to exceed ALL your expectations.  What have we accomplished and how is the company better off for the effort?

That is a long question but as I said, you do not have much time to communicate your questions.  With this question, you have actually accomplished 4 very important things.

  1. You have shown interest in the specific role, the importance of this cannot be overstated.
  2. You have shown you are team oriented.
  3. You have shown you are results focused.
  4. Most importantly if you listen carefully you are about to understand:
    1. The real job description
    2. How to be successful in your first 12 months.

The real job description is something you need to uncover in the interview process.  Chances are the written one was created five years ago by someone other than the hiring manager.  Uncovering the true needs of the position is going to help you prepare for your in-person interview.

The first year on any job is your most critical time.  Of the people who do not succeed, sometimes it is truly a lack of ability.  Most often it is a misalignment of hiring manager’s expectations with what the new employee sees as important.  New employee is using the job description the hiring manager received from HR and never actually read.

Last question – [FIRST NAME], this sounds like a great time to be joining [COMPANY NAME].  I am impressed with where the company is going and what I have learned about the team.  Do you have any concerns about moving me forward to the next step in the interview process?

With this question you have accomplished three critical items:

  1. You have shown interest in the company.  This is equally and important as showing interest in the job and almost always over looked.
  2. You have opened a window for them to express any concerns / objections they might have and therefore an opportunity for you to overcome them.  Many times a simple miscommunication derails an interview process.  If they have already decided to take you to the next step or to eliminate you from the process they will not mention anything.  If they are unsure of their decision they will share a concern with you.
  3. Psychologically it is harder to say no to someone who asks to go to the next step than it is to say no to someone who does not.

Related: How to Prepare for a Video Interview

Leave a Comment