Often a phone interview is a necessary step along the journey to your new opportunity. No one ever landed a job with a stellar phone interview, but many candidates have lost one. Remember the goal of the phone interview – to obtain an in person interview. Keep that in mind and don’t try too hard by trying to get everything in on a ten minute call. The resume’s goal is to get you an interview. The phone interview’s goal is to get you in the door for a meeting.
The phone screen is really a chance for the HR or hiring department to whittle down their list of candidates who at first glance seem to be worthy of the “next step.” Often this call will be to delve a little deeper into an area of your experience that is especially pertinent to the open opportunity. Other times the phone interview can be a lengthy process as hiring managers just don’t have the time to meet with candidates in person. So the top performers in a phone interview will advance to in-person interviews.
How do YOU set yourself apart as a top performer? Beyond having the “right” experience, which you cannot control, here are a few things you can:
Be Prepared You may have a phone screen scheduled, but sometimes they come out of the blue. Part of making a good first impression is when someone calls about an opportunity you applied for – you sound organized and on top of things. This can be difficult if you’ve applied to dozens of jobs. Or it can be difficult if you are in the midst of other tasks. Before you answer any call that is not a recognized number, have some sort of system with the jobs you have applied for in front of you. Maybe it is a small stack of printed job postings with the key qualifications highlighted. Perhaps it is an Excel spreadsheet. Whatever works for you, have a system to make it sound as if – heck yes you know why they are calling. You remember the opportunity because it stood out as a great fit. And having the description handy will let you speak to each of those requirements in order of importance.
Be Concise but Thorough Often you’ll be asked to give examples of your experience – not just on the phone but in person. For the major areas of your resume/experience, have some mini “case studies” in mind that include the situation/challenge, what you did to overcome the challenge, and what the results of your actions were. Be specific and upbeat as you should be excited about these stories where you made a difference. One side note, be careful to use “we” when it was a team effort – but also to use “I” when it was your individual actions that were the bulk of the solution.
Go Old School Print your materials. Turn away from the screen and focus on the conversation. You could try and look at the screen for the same materials – but then what happens when you get an instant message, email, or some other story pops up to momentarily derail you? This is your future, Facebook can wait.