Everyone is busy. This is even more true for hiring managers and HR managers who have to sift through piles of resumes to find suitable candidates (in addition to doing their jobs). This is why the phone interview has become the default first step in the candidate screening process.
Hiring managers don’t want to waste time bringing in candidates who do not meet the minimum requirements of the job. The goal of the phone interview, therefore, is to screen out candidates who do not meet the basic requirements. A phone interview is also used to assess candidates’ verbal communication skills and how well they handle question on the fly.
For candidates, the phone interview can be challenging. The obvious disadvantage is the complete lack of any visual cues from the interviewer. Without seeing facial cues or body language it is extremely difficult to gauge how well your answers are received. Another disadvantage is the vagaries of phone connections and location noises. It is another variable that the interviewee has to manage.
So how does one increase the odds of acing the phone interview?
1. Ensure that the phone connection is good, that the location is reasonably quiet and free of distractions.
2. Anticipate likely questions – don’t be caught off-guard. Assess the key requirements of the job. Identify the areas that interviewer will screen for. Be prepared with answers and provide examples.
- Technical roles typically will have 3-4 “must have” requirements that the employer want. These requirements are likely related to the employer’s industry, product, manufacturing processes…etc.
- Refine your answers and examples – give specifics, provide relevant details that will emphasize your experience in a particular area or topic
3. Answer questions directly and clearly – be brief.
- Be aware of the time limit – most phone interviews are meant to be 30 minutes or less and the interviewer typically has a number of questions he/she would like to cover
- Avoid “story telling” or giving too much background information. Provide answers that are germane to the question.
- You can ask if the interviewer would like more details or further elaboration
4. Close the interviewer (similar to asking for the sale/business)
- Ask the interviewer if you have met the minimum requirements
- Ask if you will be invited for an in-person interview
- This forces the interviewer to give you at least some feedback on the spot
As in any job hunting activities, being prepared will increase the likelihood of success. Understanding the intent of the phone interview and its pitfalls can help job seekers get through this preliminary step and get to the in-person interview.
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