7 Steps to Giving Great Phone Interviews

By Joan Graci - Career Reformist & Growth Business Coach

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Phone Interviews

Job seekers, are you making a good first impression on the phone or scaring employers away? Do you understand the crucial importance of preparing for a phone interview, or are you simply treating it like another formality designed by the hiring company? If you’re truly serious about securing a new role (ideally a better role), you’ll want to learn how to give great phone interviews and win more face-to-face meetings.

The days are long gone when all you needed to get a personal interview was a decent resume. Recruiters and employers have become more selective about who they choose, which is why they use phone interviews as a “weeding out” mechanism to save time, resources, and money. Wouldn’t it be great if you could choose what role would enhance your career journey instead of letting the job choose you?

So, how do you make sure you’re keeping recruiters interested?

1. Stop answering the phone when you’re unprepared to take the call.

Whether you’re 4 beers deep at a concert or trying to make dinner for a bustling household, you probably shouldn’t answer a call from a number you don’t recognize. I know you might be under the impression that it’s better to answer a call you’re not completely prepared for than to miss the call altogether, but it’s not. If you aren’t in a place or situation where you can have a professional conversation, don’t pick up the phone. Be sure that you collect your thoughts and call back within 24 hours when you can lock down some quiet time.

That being said, did you know that recruiters start timing you from the second they leave a voicemail? Which brings me to my next point, always make sure your voicemail sounds professional and leaves specific instructions to avoid an unwanted game of phone tag.

Here’s an example, “Hello, you’ve reached Mark Smith. If you’re calling in regards to my recent job application, please leave your name, number, and the best times for me to reach you. Thank you.

2. Don’t expect the recruiter to fill in the blanks.

Never say, “Hi, what job did I apply for again? What company are you calling on behalf of?” You might be surprised to learn that our recruiters get these responses regularly, even for high-level positions. I understand that you’re an active job seeker, which means you probably apply to several job every week. It’s tough to keep track, but it’s truly essential that you start taking notes. You will blow a recruiter’s mind if you pick up the phone and say, “Hi, Wendy. You must be calling about the Customer Service position I applied for last week.

3. Stop conducting an unorganized job search.

In today’s age, it’s not enough to print out a handful of resumes and call it a day. We always recommend keeping an active spreadsheet of every job application you submit with corresponding dates, company names, and relevant contacts. Better yet, you can try these awesome job search apps. This way, you’ll have a handy guide that will save you from playing the guessing game when the phone rings. It’s also important to keep your professional information and portfolios within arm’s reach to provide some material for preliminary questions. It says a great deal about your personal brand if you’re prepared to answer a challenging question or even give some statistics to back up your argument. To get some bonus points, make sure to browse the company’s website(s) and connect with HR personnel on LinkedIn. This will leave a huge impression.

4. Understand why recruiters really call.

When a recruiter calls a job seeker, they’re not only calling to schedule a personal interview but also to conduct a prescreen. They want to decide if it’s worth it to move you forward. Remember all that research you were supposed to do when you applied for the position? Use it to show recruiters how serious you are about the job.

5. Work on your “radio personality.”

Phone conversations can be tough because all you have to make an impression is your voice. Some candidates, especially introverts, have a hard time heightening their energy over the phone. Nobody expects you to sound like Ron Burgundy, but at the very least your voice should sound excited, confident, and prepared. An excessive amount of “umms,” stammering, or sounding like you’re dead inside are huge turnoffs to recruiters. In order to avoid these awkward situations you need to do one thing: practice, practice, practice. One option is to record yourself on any device you have handy, and ask yourself this difficult question: “Would you hire you?” Getting your career narrative down to engage and connect with an employer is the key to winning them over and getting that face-to-face meeting.

6. Clean up your weak or unprofessional online presence.

If a recruiter is interested in you and what you have to say, chances are they will be Googling you before the end of your conversation. A half-completed LinkedIn profile or racy Facebook pictures are all it takes to eliminate you from the race. Just last week, one of my recruiters was interested in a great candidate with a stellar background and scheduled her for an interview right away. Unfortunately, before the phone call she discovered an R-rated photo online that involved a stripper pole. Her mind had already been made up before the conversation with the candidate even started.

7. Always treat a phone interview with the same decorum as a personal one.

Just because you don’t put a suit on or sit down with your interviewer face-to-face doesn’t mean the conversation counts any less towards your chances of securing the job. The same goes for your actions after you hang up the phone. Request follow up procedures, send personalized thank you notes, and be sure to highlight takeaways to reinforce your sincerity. The small things really do matter.


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