Telephone interview prep

posted in: Job Doc Blog | 0

Q:  For the past two years, I feel like I was able to successfully interview via video calls, like Zoom.  Now some employers are moving back to phone interviews, because of “Zoom fatigue.”  I almost feel like I do better with Zoom calls.  I can read non-verbal cues, like facial expressions, body language, even the background (or virtual background) of their workspace.  I feel like I struggle with telephone interviews, which seem to be the norm for some companies now.  How do I make sure that I interview well in a telephone interview?

A: We are seeing this also.  In early 2020, there was a quick pivot to Zoom, Teams and other video platforms.  Now, some employers are returning to telephone calls, as the first step in the screening process.  I think most of our clients are still using Zoom.

Here are some tips that may help:

  1. Prepare.  Don’t treat a phone (or Zoom) interview as a casual step in the process.  Take this step seriously.  Candidates are eliminated or advanced at this step.
  2. Don’t schedule the call while food shopping or walking your dog.  Several years ago, I conducted a phone interview with a candidate.  She was in line at the deli counter!  She explained that she was at the end of the line, so she thought this was ok.  Her decision affected her credibility and judgement.
  3. Remove distractions.  Shut the door, turn off the TV and have childcare in place, if needed.
  4. If using a cell phone, make sure that you are in a strong cell area.  A scratchy connection is aggravating for both you and the interviewer.
  5. Have a copy of your resume in front of you as well as a copy of the job description or posting (if available to you).  Research the company in advance.
  6. Be energetic and enthusiastic.  Convey interest!
  7. Be ready to discuss your accomplishments, goals attained, how you worked with others, and any other job-related topics.  Plan to discuss compensation, in the event it is raised.
  8. Toward the end of the call, ask about the next step.  Express your interest in an in-person interview and offer available dates and times.  You want to make sure that you leave that call with a clear understanding of next steps.  It is ok to ask about their timeline for a decision to be made.  This made reduce your angst.  If it will take several weeks, that is good to know.  Job hunters consistently share that days feel like weeks in the search process.  It is helpful to know in advance.
  9. Email a quick note of thanks, even though you may have thanked the interviewer on the phone.  In the email, reiterate your interest and summarize your availability.
  10. And my pet peeve — check email often after the phone interview!  Candidates who don’t do this sometimes miss out on opportunities!
  11. With each telephone interview, you should become more experienced and hopefully more successful.  Practice improves with each interview, whether by telephone, Zoom or in person.

Finally, don’t get discouraged.  Job seekers can often get quickly frustrated.  To use a batting analogy, there will be some strikes.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.