10 tips for successful a phone interview

Help! My resume looks great, my job experience is right on target, and I have great references. My problem is whenever I do a phone-based interview or job screening, they never call me back. How can I improve my phone-based interviews?

To begin, thank you for emailing me your question and good luck on your job search.

In many ways, phone-based interviews are harder than in-person interviews. The major challenges with phone-based interviews are: • It’s more difficult to develop personal rapport with the interviewer because there is no face-to-face interaction. • You can’t read the interviewer’s body language to gain insights into his/her thoughts on how the interview is going. • You can’t look around the interviewer’s office to gain an understanding of the his/her interests and professional stature. • It’s harder to be memorable since you are only the voice over the phone.

Given the above challenges, there are a number of things you can do to enhance the quality of the interview and convey an aura of knowledge, competence and professional engagement. These tips are:

1. Do your research as if you were meeting in person Just because you are on the phone, don’t minimize the importance of doing your due diligence on the industry, company, job description, and even the interviewer, if possible. This knowledge will allow you to illustrate the depth of your understanding, your interest in the position, the type of due diligence you will do on your daily work if hired.

2. Have a printed copy of your resume next to you for reference Certainly you know your own resume well, after all, you wrote it. That said, having it in front of you during a phone interview has great potential value. Remember, the interviewer will have your resume in front of him/her, so it will be easier for you to answer resume-specific questions if you have it in hand. Second, if the interviewer asks you a question related to a prior job, looking at your resume can jog your memory as to the specific items listed. Lastly, if you tailor your resume for specific job opportunities, it’s easy to forget the changes made for this specific interview. Looking at the same resume as the one sent to the interviewer can save you from making embarrassing mistakes and creating lost opportunities.

3. Have the company’s website on your computer screen for reference You should, or course, review the company’s website prior to your interview, but having it up on your computer screen during the interview provides the option of moving from screen-to-screen during the interview as needed to answer the interviewer’s questions. For example, if asked “Do you like our company’s new logo?” it’s sitting there right on the screen for your viewing and comment. As a second example, if asked “What do you know about our company?” you now have the option to click on the “About Us” tab and begin talking about the company until the interviewer is satisfied that you have done your homework.

4. Have a pad of paper and a pen for taking notes This one is obvious, it lets you take notes. A second advantage of pen and paper is that it’s silent. Taking notes on your computer keyboard causes key-clicks, it also covers the company’s website while you are taking notes.

5. If possible, have the person’s LinkedIn profile up on your screen Having read the interviewer’s LinkedIn page allows you to gain a sense of the person’s background, which can assist you in formulating your questions and answers. Additionally, if you can find something that you have in common, for example, having gone to the same college, it can be used to build a common bond between the two of you, raising your attractiveness in the eyes of the interviewer.

6. Call from a quiet location where you can talk confidentially, be uninterrupted, and is free of distractions This may seem obvious, but is not always done. This simple step of finding a good location can enhance your concentration and increase the potential for performing well.

7. If the phone connection is not clear, jointly agree to hang up and reinitiate the call This may also sound obvious, but in the excitement of the moment you may not want to disrupt the flow of the call. The problem is, however, if you cannot clearly hear each other or if you hear your own echo on the phone; it’s very difficult to perform at your best.

8. Do the call standing up Research has shown that human perception is interpreted by other humans based on the words said (7%), tone of voice (38%) and body language (55%). Over the phone the interviewer can’t see your body language, but by standing up and moving like you are fully engaged in the conversation increases your energy level, allows for better breathing and, literally and figuratively, keeps you on your toes throughout the interview.

9. Gesture with your hands as if you were meeting with them in person While standing, as described in #8, gesture with your hands as if you were in a face-to-face conversation. The reason is, if you normally move your hands when you talk, doing so during your phone interview helps your oral timing and expressiveness and will help you from sounding flat during the call.

10. Suggest that the interviewer go to your LinkedIn screen during the interview Lastly, refer to something on your LinkedIn home page and suggest that they go there during the interview. In addition to providing supplementary information about your professional background, it also allows them to connect your name and voice with a face. Having viewed your picture will make you more memorable (literally) in the eyes of the interviewer.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom and @MgrMechanics or at www.ManagerMechanics.com.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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