How Not to Blow a Phone Interview: Final Thoughts!

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A former client called me recently to ask about how I’d suggest wrapping up a successful phone interview. It got me thinking about a few more ideas forgetting your ducks in a row to ensure phone interview success. These tips, together with the suggestions in my last post, will arm you to rock your next phone screen!

  1. Be a Sleuth! With all the resources available today, there’s no excuse for going into any interview without doing your research. If nothing else, this will show that you’re intelligent, interested in the opportunity, and a fairly savvy candidate. Use Google, Linked In, Plaxo or Facebook to see what you can learn about the person on the other end of the phone prior to the call. If a staffing industry/agency recruiter has set this interview up for you, ask them about the experience placing prior candidates with this organization. Find out how prior interviews have gone, and what you should expect. Be sure that you’ve taken time to fully review the hiring firm’s web site and understand at least their structure, what they do, and some recent news about them. Use this information both to generate better questions to ask, and to tailor your answers to questions so that they not only reflect your personal truth, but also jibe with the company’s culture and direction.
  2. Get Your Facts Straight! The purpose of many phone interviews is really a brief technical screen. The interviewer wants to spend 10-15 with a handful of candidates to quickly determine if they have the appropriate technical expertise, or hard skills, to do the job. In other words, they want to see if you really know all the things you say you do in your resume. Then if you pass muster, they’ll bring you in to assess fit for the environment, soft skills, level of interest, etc… By technical skills, I don’t necessarily mean technology, but the hard facts and processes needed to be successful in any job. For an accountant, these might be finance/tax/regulatory questions, for a computer programmer, these would be questions on how you create a certain type of code or application, and for a sommelier, they’d be questions focused on various wine terroir and vintage. Be sure that you fully understand the direct competencies and hard skills needed for the role and if you have any weaknesses in these areas, study up prior to the interview. Don’t be afraid to use notes either. You’re invisible to the interviewer, so allow that to work to your advantage. I’m not suggesting you totally fake it! If you don’t have the basic skills to do a job successfully, getting through a phone screen will not help you. It will just draw out the inevitable result of you being weeded out, and waste both your time and the employer’s time.
  3. Line Up Those Ducks! The worst thing an interviewer can hear is “NO, I don’t have any questions”. This makes you sound uninterested in the opportunity, or (worse yet), not analytical enough to dig into any of the covered topics. By all means, have some questions prepared! Don’t ask about benefits, pay, flex time or related topics at this stage of the game. Keep your inquiries professionally-focused and ask about their expectations, vision, past successes or failures in filling this role, culture, or tools/methodologies/processes used in the role. The best questions are “high octane” – they get you information and cast you in a more intelligent light with the hiring manager.
  4. Lock and Load! If you decide you want a “second date” with this employer, don’t be shy! When the interview is over, tell them you’ve genuinely enjoyed speaking with them and getting to know more about the organization and the role. Share how you feel you are a good match for their need and how you could make an impact. Ask them what the next step would be and whether they have any hesitations moving forward. This gives them the opportunity to share their concerns with you so that you can overcome their potential objection. Conversely, if you don’t think it sounds like a match, let them know this (nicely) as well. If it makes sense, inquire about other more appropriate roles for which you would be better suited. Thank them for their time and be sure that you’re helping to drive the next step that you want to achieve.

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