At outplacement, on the internet, etc., the methods to prep for phone interviews are all fairy consistent and essentially suggest the following:
- Do your homework on the company
- Review how your skill set aligns with the job description and be prepared to speak to these points / qualifications
- Review your résumé and be prepared to speak to it and/or sum it up
- Review your answers to the standard interview questions, especially the “Tell me about yourself” question
- Practice your answers to the above interview questions. Suggestions are to review them with a friend, record them, practice in front of a mirror, etc.
- Dress like you are on a real interview
- Stay standing during the call
- Smile as you are talking to the interviewer
I am sure I am forgetting something obvious from this list.
I do my homework and make sure to insert some comments during the call that reflect that I have done so. This is easiest to do when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. It could be something as simple as confirming their annual revenue (especially if they are not public, they are impressed that you found this info), but if you can add comments like “I have looked over your financial statements and your profit growth over the last “x” years has been very impressive”, “or your inventory turns are much higher than the company I just left” or some such thing that shows that you have done research.
I do go over the job description the day before the interview and make a bullet point list of the key responsibilities and qualifications and also a list of questions to ask at the end of the call. I keep this all to one page so that I don’t lose track of page 2 and to keep it focused, etc. I hand write this list as, for me, having it in my own writing somehow keeps it more ‘real’, or familiar….it is hard to describe, but it feels better than typing it out.
I have a few typed sheets that I have handy that cover the following list, I type these to keep the lists clean and crisp and they are really just in case I go brain-dead on something:
- all the projects that I have worked on over the last few years
- a “STAR” recap of the successes I have on my résumé (situation, task, action, results)
- a recap of my general functional responsibilities / accountabilities; i.e. routine meetings, deliverables, my staff structure, example of ad-hoc things I might be asked to do, etc.
- some stats on the business I worked on; i.e. market share, revenue/profit, contribution %, etc.
Contrary to recommendation, I do not practice my interview questions. I am not the type of person that practices presentations, either; I develop the presentation, review it, and then just kinda go over it in my head. For me, practicing makes it too stiff. So, what I have done for interviewing is to create a list of all the standard questions (you can find such questions through outplacement or on a variety of internet sites) and I typed up answers to every one of them and have them stored in a little binder. For me, all I really needed was to consider these answers and put them in black & white. I haven’t actually referred back to the list at all. Just the fact that I did that and had to reflect on answers was enough for me, they are in my head and at the ready.
I also do not dress like I am on a real interview. What is important to me is to just feel comfortable. I get up, shower, dress in something very casual (usually my pajama bottoms or jeans and a t-shirt), and make my latte. I may go over my notes that day, maybe not, but I have them on the desk near my phone so that I know where they are if I need them. I turn off all audio about a half hour before the call (TV, radio, whatever) and take that time to relax and get in a comfortable yet professional mindset. It may just be getting a drink, folding some laundry….just something calming and distracting yet mindless so I can clear my head a bit.
The phone calls generally come about 3 minutes late. I let the phone ring three times before I pick it up and always answer with my name. Typically the interviewer will apologize for being a few minutes late, so in a happy-smiley voice I always convey that it is not a problem and all, that I completely understand and then they settle down into the interview. This is a weird situation for them, too, as they don’t know what is going to be on the other end, either!
I do stay standing. It makes you sound better, and just being able to move around is comfortable for me.
I always have some good questions to ask at the end of the call (from the hand written notes I refer to above) and always finish by asking if there is anything else they would like to ask me or that I can clarify to make them feel comfortable about my abilities to fill the position. This may sound pretty corny, but it works well, conveys a mutual respect, and suggests how you would partner with them/a colleague in a work setting.
Of course, always end the call suggesting your continued interest in the role….unless you are not interested!
The more phone interviews, the easier this obviously gets!