Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Phone Interview: Not As Easy As You Think

Another common interview concern comes in the form of the phone interview. Right now I am interviewing for many jobs outside of Salt Lake City, Utah where I currently live. The first interview, after the resume screen, always comes in the form of the phone interview. This gives both the employer and job candidate a chance to "feel each other out" without spending any money to get the candidate in the office. As I have been interviewing over the phone for the last few months, it has reminded me how important these calls are when landing a job outside of your local area. Here are a few phone interview tips to consider when preparing for this type of interview.

Phone Interviewing Do's and Don'ts

by Maureen Crawford Hentz with commentary by David Bonnemort

Here are the keys to successful phone interviewing. Follow these simple rules and you should achieve success in this important phase of job-hunting.

  • Do give accurate and detailed contact information in your cover letter so your interviewers can easily connect with you.

  • When in job-hunting mode, don't have a disproportionately silly or long greeting on your answering machine or voicemail.

    In your message you should state your name, so people know they dialed the correct number, and have a short message stating for the caller to leave their contact information so you can give them a call back.

  • Do ensure that household members understand the importance of phone messages in your job search.

    This shouldn't be a major problem since most people have a personal cell phone, but if you don't then explain to family, friends, and roommates the importance of these calls so if you get one they take a message.

  • Do know what job you are interviewing for.

    This is a no brainer - investment banking.

  • Do practice, if possible. Have a friend call you to do a mock phone interview so you get the feel of being interviewed over the phone.

    A little practice never hurts.

  • When being interviewed by phone, do make sure you are in a place where you can read notes, take notes, and concentrate.

    Great advice. In some ways phone interviews can be more difficult because you are talking on the phone and not face-to-face. Some interviewers also find this as an excuse to ask you more involved questions, that you would have most likely not have received if interviewing in person.

  • If you cannot devote enough time to a phone interview, do suggest a specific alternate time to the recruiter. It's often best to be the one who calls back so you can be mentally prepared.

  • Do consider keeping some note cards or an outline in front of you to remind yourself of key points you want to cover with the interviewer. You don't want your responses to sound scripted, but you don't want to fumble for important points either.

    If there are any questions or subjects you are a little shaky on, make sure you practice answering them out loud multiple times, it's okay to have some notes in front of you to help remind you. This is a definite advantage if you are prepared and don't have to rely completely on your notes.

  • Do also have your resume in front of you so you can remember highlights of your experience and accomplishments.

    Everyone should have their resume memorized. If not, then memorize it. No excuses!

  • Do ensure that you can hear and are being clearly heard.

    Sometimes there can be static on the line, especially if you are on your cell phone and you are sitting in your house where you get bad reception. Make sure that you handle this situation, if necessary, prior to the interview. No where your dead spots are in your apartment or house.

  • Do consider standing when being interviewed on the phone. Some experts say you'll sound more professional than if you're slouching in an easy chair.

    I took a sales class and they recommend standing and smiling like a cheese ball when you make your phone calls. Standing and smiling makes you come across more exciting on the phone. Example: We all have or are that friend who is really exciting and fun to hang out and talk with in person, but when you call them on the phone they are monotone and boring. It's like they are a different person! This is what you want to avoid. Don't be monotone and boring on the phone. Since the interviewer cannot see your facial expressions, the best way to show your enthusiasm is through your voice. For more info on voice expression, please refer to my March 22, 2008 blog post, "Be Impressive! Make a Strong First Impression".

  • Do consider dressing nicely for the phone interview. It may sound silly since the interviewer can't see you, but you really will project a more professional image if you're dressed for the part instead of wearing, for example, a ratty bathrobe.

    This has to do with the way you sound and project yourself over the phone. Don't roll out of bed a half an hour before bed and stay in your pj's. Wake up, go for a run, eat breakfast, take a shower, get dressed (either in business casual or casual), and be engaging on the phone. Don't take these interviews lightly. If you are not prepared, someone else will be and they will get the job. Remember the 7 P's (Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance).

  • Don't feel you have to fill in the silences. If you've completed a response, but the interviewer hasn't asked his or her next question, don't start babbling just to fill in airtime. Instead, ask a question of your own related to your last response.

    Be prepared for your interview. If you are prepared, you should know the first 5 questions they will ask you: Walk me through your resume, Why our company?, Why this position?, and some valuation and accounting questions. Answer the questions directly. Be short and to the point. Don't go on and on and on. Know your stuff and prove it through the content and delivery of your answer.

  • Do create a strong finish to your phone interview with thoughtful questions.

    As with every interview, over the phone or in person, have thoughtful questions prepared. If you are having trouble coming up with good questions, read the rest of my blog, read other blogs, read the WSJ, read anything and everything you can get your hands on that relates to the job and company you are applying for.

  • Don't panic if you have special needs. If you are hearing-impaired, for example, phone interviews are still possible.

  • Don't snuffle, sneeze or cough. If you can't avoid these behaviors, say excuse me.

    Sometimes you can't help it because you are sick or have allergies. If you do sneeze or cough, ensure that you say "excuse me". This is just common courtesy. Your mom, dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc... should have taught you this by now. If not, then now you know.

  • Don't chew gum or food, or drink anything noisy.

    Being at home can sometimes cause you to be too relaxed for an interview. Definitely DO NOT CHEW GUM or eat food or drink while you are on the phone if you can at all avoid it. Remember, it's all about the presentation you give your future employer. You are a sales man and you are selling your skills.


smarty said...


I read this post 2 times. It is very useful.

Pls try to keep posting.

Let me show other source that may be good for community.

Source: Phone interview tips

Best regards

Anonymous said...

I read your blog before the day I was doing a phone interview from a big investment banking company in Hong Kong. The steps you elaborated here are very specific and helpful. I liked the point where you are addressing the importance of "standing when being interviewed on the phone. Some experts say you'll sound more professional than if you're slouching in an easy chair. "
Thank you so much for writing this great article, which considered to be a precise guide for any investment banking interview. I felt much more confident and ready after reading this. Thank you.

Qianwen Yin
Freeman School of Business
Tulane University

Anonymous said...


Stepherd said...

This is a great post. I like this topic.This site has lots of advantage. It helps me in many ways.Thanks for posting this again.
Hr Consultancy in Chennai