BY ERIC TITNER
You’ve submitted your resume for a job opening, and now you’ve got your first bite — a phone interview. You might encounter the phone interview for two reasons: You’re currently far away from the hiring company, or the company wants to do a preliminary screening.
Either way, it’s likely a precursor to some kind of physical meeting. The main goal is usually to see if you meet certain requirements and would likely be a good fit for the job. If a company has a lot of great-on-paper applicants for a single position, phone interviews are a way to narrow the candidate pool.
How do phone and sitdown interviews differ?
There’s the obvious format difference, for starters. Instead of physically sitting face-to-face and being able to read body language cues, you’re sitting by yourself. That can be a benefit, but also a drawback. You’re in a bit of a void, counting on your conversational skills to get you through to the next round.
Also, while an in-person interview is usually with the hiring manager, you may be talking to a human resources representative or a recruiter for a phone interview. It’s important to know who the interviewer is upfront. If it’s a recruiter or HR person, you can be a little more general.
If it’s the hiring manager, you should be more detailed about your qualifications.
How to prepare
Make sure your voice is calm, confident and conversational. It may help to to dress up in your normal interview clothes and call a friend or family member right before the interview to get into a conversational mode.
You want to come across as friendly and competent. Make sure you’re allowing the person to finish speaking before you answer, and don’t feel like you need to fill in any brief silences with nervous chatter.
Do your homework on the company, the job and the interviewer. The beauty of the phone interview is that you can have notes right in front of you, without the interviewer knowing you’ve got a crib sheet, or the talking points about your resume that you want to emphasize.
Lastly, make sure you’re settled in a quiet spot where you can conduct your interview in peace.
Here are some common phone interview questions, and how to approach them:
"Tell me about yourself."
Limit your answer to a few highlights about your career, especially those relevant to the job for which you’re interviewing. An elevator pitch comes in very handy here.
"What interested you about this job?"
This is where your preinterview research comes in handy. Talk about one of your goals that this job would help you achieve or mention something you like about the company.
Make it clear that this job is an opportunity you didn’t want to miss. The more specific and authentic your answer, the better.
"Tell me about your current/most recent job."
The interviewer isn’t necessarily interested in every one of your daily tasks, thoughts and opinions about the work.
Instead, focus on the parts of your job that relate most directly to the job you want, and highlight the accomplishments.
"Why are you leaving your job?"
Part of the phone interview process is weeding out people who aren’t a good fit. They want to know you’re not a flight risk or unable to work as a member of a team. The answer shouldn’t focus too much on what dissatisfies you about your current job. Instead, emphasize your goals and this new job.
A phone interview may not be the main interview in your hiring process, but it’s such an important first step that it should be treated every bit as seriously as any other kind of interview. Being prepared will help you be read! y to answer any question that comes your way.
Eric Titner is a career advice journalist for TheJobNetwork.com where this article was originally published. He investigates and writes about current strategies, tips, and trending topics related to all stages of one’s career.