Q: How does a phone interview differ from a face-to-face interview?
A phone interview is often the first step in the candidate screening process. The purpose is to weed out a large number of possible candidates, narrowing down the list of individuals selected for an on-site interview.
Specific distinctions between phone and on-site interviews:
- The focus of the phone interview is on identifying red flags, such as gaps in employment, poor communication/interpersonal skills or personality traits inconsistent with the corporate culture, which would serve to disqualify the candidate from further consideration.
- At home, there are numerous potential distractions that threaten to take your attention away from the conversation.
- The atmosphere is more casual, often causing candidates to feel and act more laid back than is appropriate during an interview.
Q: What can I do to ensure a successful phone interview?
The key to any successful interview, whether on the phone or in-person, is preparation. Practice answering interview questions with someone who will provide constructive criticism. The mirror is also a great source of unbiased feedback and will give you a clear view of how you come across in an interview.
- Put yourself in the right frame of mind by preparing for the call the same way you would for a face-to-face interview. Beyond perfecting your interviewing skills, here are several additional suggestions that will boost your likelihood of success.
- Take the call in a quiet room where you can sit behind a desk, as if speaking to the interviewer on the other side.
- Ensure that there will be no distractions.
- Eliminate sources of peripheral noise, such as cell phones, alarms, toys, kids, etc.
- Dress and attend to your presentation with the same level of professionalism as you would if meeting with the hiring manager on-site.
- Don’t risk getting disconnected during the call. Use a landline, charge your phone in advance and disable call waiting. Consider using a headset – you’ll feel less restricted and be free to use hand gestures, communicating as you would naturally.
- Have your resume ready for reference and prepare a notepad and pen.
- Have in front of you a list of relevant discussion points: strengths, reason for interest in the position, key facts about the company/industry. Caution: do not read your answers, as this will be quite obvious. Instead, practice answering these questions in advance; use the notes only as reminders.
- Smile — although the interviewer can’t see you, your voice will convey enthusiasm and set a positive tone.
- Be prepared for the most likely phone interview questions (e.g.: “Explain your reasons for leaving each job”; “Explain any gaps in employment”; “Name your 3 key strengths/weaknesses”; “Why are you interested in this job?”)
- As you would during a regular interview, remember to ask a few well-chosen questions and express your interest in further discussing the opportunity in-person.
- Follow up with a thank you note.
Although this last suggestion is not specific to phone interviews, please also consider the following: your voice-mail message may be the first impression you make on a recruiter. When conducting a job search, be sure to override the generic message with a personal greeting that sounds professional and positive.