Congratulations, you've done it - you've scored a phone interview for a potential new job. But while that in and of itself is a bit of a milestone, you're still only at one of the beginning stages of landing your next dream job. Progressing can only be a phone call away - but that 20 to 30 minute call can also put you firmly in the “rejected" category.
So, how do you properly set yourself up for success? Glad you asked. Follow these steps to pass your next scheduled phone interview with flying colors - and brush up on your phone etiquette in general.
Before the Call: Prepare
1. How to be ready for anything
It's possible to prepare for a call, even if it's unscheduled. Keep a professional and clear voicemail, and make sure to check your messages and respond in a timely manner. Answer the phone professionally, and if you're in a place unideal for a phone call, schedule a time for the person to contact you later. If you're up to the call, though, skip down to follow many of the same procedures as you would for a scheduled call.
2. Set the tone
A phone call grants you the blessing of a lack of visual contact. However, know yourself. Can you take a call in your pajamas, and still sound and feel professional? Sometimes, if you know a call is coming, it helps to get into interview mode. You know yourself best. If that means dressing up, dress up.
3. Give yourself a grace period
Also, just like a regular interview, give yourself some time to prepare. Set a good reminder on your phone or in a place you'll remember it, and have yourself ready for the call 10 to 15 minutes beforehand. This makes you look good if the person calls a few minutes early but will also help you to gather your thoughts.
Save the chainmail and other noisy clothing for the next medieval festival - it's too noisy for the phone.
If you frequent places with bad phone reception, you will want to do further preparation to scope out a place where dropped calls won't add to an already stressful situation. If you're planning on taking the call with headphones in order to have both hands free, take extra care to ensure that the place you're taking the call isn't noisy - this includes the clothing you're wearing. Save the bells and whistles for later.
4. Do your research
Do some research, if time allows. Even if you're not fully certain of the specifics of the position, it helps to be prepared. Do a background search on the company and on your interviewer, if you have enough information to look that up. It'll help you formulate questions to ask during the call (more on this later). And, if you can find a point of common interest with your interviewer - if you both went to the same university or have a mutual connection - that'll make for a great ice breaker to make both of you feel more at ease.
5. Build your survival kit
This doesn't mean preparing for the interview while you're actually on the phone, or you'll come across as distracted. Know your research, notes, and possible questions you want to ask beforehand, but interviews can be notoriously stressful, so keeping your notes on hand, where you can access them in a pinch (or at the end of the interview to make sure you got all the information you wanted) can really benefit you.
Keep them nearby in the place where you're taking the call. Also, keep note-taking materials on hand - pen and paper here works just fine. If you use a computer, make sure it won't distract you - or that the interviewer won't hear you clacking away at your keyboard.
Every minute spent researching saves you a moment of stress later on - put in the work now so you're not scrambling later.
We rarely get to listen to ourselves from an interviewer's point of view. Consider having a mock interview with a friend in person or over the phone so you can identify speaking patterns of yours that may put off your future employer. Practicing questions will also help you feel more at ease during an actual interview. It can't hurt.
You might not be in visual contact during your phone interview, but that also brings the curse of not being able to read your interviewer's body language for cues. This is alright. Remember that your interviewer can't see you either, which makes what you say even more important.
7. Be polite
Much of good phone interview practices are the same as plain, old good interview practices. Being polite doesn't mean being formal, per se, but it does mean not interrupting your interviewer while he or she is speaking. If you need something repeated or clarified, ask your question when there is a break in the conversation. Don't be afraid of looking like you don't know something - rather, directness and clarity show that you are engaged and interested in seeing the other person's point of view.
Don't be afraid of taking a little bit of time to collect your thoughts as well. Not every question requires an immediate answer, but you want to answer succinctly and clearly.
8. Cover your basics
Know your resume and be able to answer questions about it. But also be ready to talk about things that aren't on your resume, things someone can't find out about you by looking at an online profile or piece of paper.
Know how to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses, but also talk about how you compensate for yours. Know the job description for your position, and be sure to outline how you meet each of its qualifications. Also, keep an eye out for how you'll fit into the company culture and day-to-day operations. And listen to your gut for clues on how you'll fit into the workplace.
9. Ask questions
Put your research to good use. You should already have two or three questions ready beforehand so you're ready when your interviewer asks if you have any questions or things to add toward the end of the interview. Examples can include letting the other person talk for a change - asking what he or she likes best about the company.
On the other hand, when in doubt, ask for more details - a list of priorities for the position, what a typical day at the company is like, or what other successful workers have done to succeed in the role. To show boldness, you can ask if the interviewer finds anything in your skillset lacking for a chance to explain how you fill a certain qualification another way. Alternatively, you can ask for opportunities for advancement to show initiative.
Above all, remember that this is your chance to learn even more about the position and the company - when in doubt, figure out what gaps there are in your perception of the job description and fill them. Jot down notes throughout the interview so you won't forget.
10. The waiting game
It's possible your interviewer has another client scheduled right after you, as well as a long To Do list for the rest of the day. A follow-up email portrays good manners and also keeps you in mind. Wait a day before sending your follow-up email or message. Thank the person for the interview, and leave yourself open for contact if there are any further questions. If the recruiter doesn't already have your full contact details, leave them.
If you connected well over the phone, bring up something you talked about that'll help you be more memorable - a joke you laughed over, perhaps.
11. Learn from your mistakes, and move on
Even the best laid intentions can go sour. No one's perfect, and if you botch the phone interview or don't have a good feeling about the call, it can help to send a message clarifying something you said. But also know that first impressions are vital and that you might need to let it go - a good rule of thumb in all job searches. Don't get hung up on one position, but if you know what you did wrong, do remember it as a point of learning for the next time.
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