Phone Interviews

There are different types of phone interviews. A recruiter may call unexpectedly to conduct a pre-screen. The purpose of the prescreening is to ask a few key questions before going further in the interview process. A scheduled phone interview is an in-depth pre-screen before the site interview. In some cases, for example internships, the scheduled phone interview is the actual interview. If the phone interview is the actual interview, applicants are hired solely on the basis of the phone interview. Scheduled interviews can last anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour.

Keep in mind that any contact you have with the employer is part of the decision making process and all interactions will affect how you are perceived.

  • The employer’s first contact with you may be through your voicemail – so make sure your outgoing message is professional and gives identifying information so the recruiter knows he/she has reached the correct person
  • Talk to your roommates about the importance of taking messages

Short Pre-Screen

A recruiter may call unexpectedly to conduct a pre-screen. The purpose of the pre-screening is to ask a few key questions before going further in the interview process. The information he/she is generally looking for includes the following:

  • Are you still available?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Are you interested in the position?
  • Do you know anything about the organization?
  • Do you have the skills for this position?
  • Do you sound professional?

The recruiter wants to ensure that you meet the basic criteria and are sincerely interested in the position.

How to prepare

  • Job tracking – keep a list of the positions you are applying for along with contact names. When the employer contacts you, you should be able to recall information regarding the position and what the position entails.
  • Do not get put on the spot! If the recruiter calls unexpectedly to conduct a pre-screening interview but you are in a situation where you are unable to carry on the conversation, (i.e. class, basketball game, etc.) ask if you can call them back immediately and get to a place where you can carry on the interview without distractions.

Scheduled Phone Interview

A scheduled phone interview is an in depth pre-screen before the site interview. In some cases, for example internships, the scheduled phone interview is the actual interview. If the phone interview is the actual interview, applicants are hired solely on the basis of the phone interview. Scheduled interviews can last anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour.

How to prepare

  • Choose a place to conduct the phone interview without distractions (if you have roommates you may want to give them notice)
  • When using a cell phone, make sure you can get a good signal in the chosen location
  • Check that cell phone batteries are charged
  • Turn off call waiting
  • Keep your resume and job description in clear view (possibly tape it to your desk or a wall)
  • Make a short list of accomplishments/things you think the employer should know about you that makes the connection between your skills and the position
  • Have pen and paper ready to take notes on questions and answers immediately after the phone interview
  • Practice through a mock interview or a tape recorder

During the Interview

  • Get dressed and cleaned up for the phone interview – feeling like a professional will help you convey confidence
  • Posture will affect how you sound- sit up or stand while conducting the interview
  • Smiling can affect how you come across
  • No food/drink/gum/sneezing or coughing
  • Speak clearly and enunciate
  • Always use the recruiters title and last name
  • If you are having difficulty hearing the recruiter, let him/her know
  • Show that you are enthusiastic about the organization and the position
  • Build rapport with the recruiter, be yourself, but always remain professional
  • Follow recruiters’ cues and don’t ramble to fill silences
  • Convey that you are interested in the position

Anticipate the Interview

  • Research the organization
  • Review potential interview questions and come up with possible answers using examples
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer-ALWAYS ask questions

Successful Phone Interview – Summary

  • Demonstrate connection between your skills and the position
  • Answer questions thoroughly, demonstrating you have done your research and are prepared
  • Communication skills-show that you are articulate and conduct yourself professionally
  • Develop rapport with recruiter and demonstrate sincere interest in the position