How To Prepare for a Telephone Interview

17 Mar

Hiring Managers are evaluating you in three main areas during a phone interview:

1st – Your technical fit for the position
2nd – Your personality and fit for the group
3rd – Your verbal communication skills

How is the hiring manager assessing your technical fit for the position?

Hiring managers need to know that each candidate possesses the relevant technical skills necessary for the position. The keys to the technical questions that will be asked are in the job description.

Prior to the phone interview, familiarize yourself with the bullets from the required skills section of the job description. Highlight the points in the job description where you see the words required and preferred and begin thinking of examples where you have experience with those skills. Write your answers out and keep them near the phone for your call. You will be asked about the required skills set, so don’t be caught off guard about these inevitable questions.

If there are required skills listed in the job description that you do not have experience with, don’t worry. Simply state that you are familiar with that skill and a quick learner, and that you are genuinely interested in developing that experience. Many hiring managers will overlook a lacking skill set if they are convinced the candidate is a fast learner and has a genuine interest in acquiring the knowledge in question.

How is the hiring manager evaluating personality?

Fifty percent of any job interview process is focused on a candidate’s personality fit into the group. Although this will be more of a focus in a face-to-face interview, the interviewer will certainly be trying to get a feeling about personality over the phone.

Coming across likable over the phone can be difficult. In order to do this you must:

1- Match the style of the interviewer
2- Exhibit enthusiasm for the position and the company

Matching Style

The cue to the hiring manager’s style will be in the way the person starts the conversation. If the interviewer gets right to business very quickly on the phone, you are dealing with someone who is matter of fact and possibly very busy. Do not try and lighten the call, just simply respond with the same serious approach to your answers. If on the other hand the interviewer sounds very upbeat and starts the call by discussing personal matters, return the favor and try and open up a bit. If you feel high energy in the voice of the interviewer, you will want to be upbeat as well.

Show Enthusiasm

First, make sure you tell the interviewer that you are interested and excited about the position. Many candidates forget to actually say this during a phone interview.

Additionally, prior to the phone interview, at a minimum, go to the company Web site. Familiarize yourself with not only the job description, but also how that position might fit in to the company’s overall business direction. After viewing the site, scan the company’s recent news section as well and work that information into the call. This will show you have done your homework.

How is the hiring manager assessing your communication skills?

Verbal communication is a key component of the phone screen evaluation. The two questions a hiring manager is asking are: Can you answer questions clearly and concisely? Are you able to give more than just yes and no answers?

Be mindful of rambling, but make sure that every answer you give is elaborated on. I often hear from hiring managers that when a candidate answers in solely yes or no’s, they automatically question their aptitude. Conversely, if you do all the talking and some of it seems aimless, hiring managers will also question your aptitude. The best way to avoid this is to have prepared examples of your skills written out and next to the phone. This should keep you on point and prevent you from being too verbose.

Final Points:

As a rule, listen more than you talk.

Try and find a private place where you are not worried about others listening to your conversation. If you are in a cube, this may mean that you would need to schedule calls before or after the work day. Interviewers would rather accommodate a time before or after work than deal with cryptic or half answers.

Know that a call from HR will be very different than a call from a hiring manager. The HR call will be more about you personally, while the hiring manager will be more about your background.

Try to take the call from a land line. Cell phone usage has become very popular, but cell coverage is still inconsistent and the clarity of a cell line is not yet as clear as a land line. There is nothing more annoying than to be speaking to someone and have it be broken up, or worse disconnected.

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