Phone Interviews

Early last week, I received an urgent text from a friend who is in job search mode.  The message read, “I have a job interview in 10 minutes and the building next door is on fire. What do I do?”

After I read and actually processed her dilemma, my first instinct was to type EVACUATE!  I quickly decided against that response. Instead I responded, “walk down the street and find a safe, quiet location for your interview. Good luck!”

This situation is extreme but does highlight the importance of being prepared for an interview as well as the need to be flexible.  We tend to be more on guard and aware when preparing for face-to-face interviews while sometimes underestimating the stress level associated with a phone interview.

1.  Know the difference between an interview and a screening

Why is this important? The audience, questions, and length of a phone screening versus an actual phone interview can be very different.  For example, during the screening process you are probably not speaking with a hiring manager.

Screenings are set up to determine whether or not you meet the basic criteria for the position.  Questions may focus on salary requirements, start date availability, and generic questions to decide “fit” for the position.  The screening process has to be taken seriously and is almost always done over the phone.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides some possible screening questions.

2.  Put on your public/professional persona for the interview

Don’t do a phone interview in your pajamas. Get out of bed, sit in front of your computer, have your resume in front of you along with pen and paper for taking notes. Get dressed as if you were leaving the house.

Preparing yourself as if you are going out into public can help you perform better during the interview. Typically we are a bit more formal, courteous, and aware when we are in public. Conducting interviews from your bedroom or in your Hello Kitty jammies may cause you to be too informal or unprepared.

3.  Location, location, location

Controlled environments are important for the phone interview process.  I have made a number of mistakes in this regard, including interviewing while at work, in my car, and in a coffee shop. Public places are sometimes difficult for me because I am an avid people watcher.

It is important that you can hear the person on the phone and that they can hear you.  Ideally, everyone participating in a phone interview uses a landline, however this is becoming less and less likely.  It is important that you pay attention to where you receive the best reception and if you begin to have phone difficulties be honest about it.

Don’t assume that “home” will provide you with the calm space that you need for the interview.  If you have a dog, children, or renovations going on in the home, finding a separate location may be ideal.  Almost every neighborhood has a restaurant that gets little to no traffic during the day. That may be a better solution.

What lessons have you learned from participating in phone interviews? What about dilemmas?

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