A phone interview is the gateway to a face-to-face interview so why do so many people fail to prepare properly for them? You might be thinking that you are merely interested in finding out more about the job opportunity, having submitted an application and possibly a cover letter. Or perhaps a recruiter contacted you via LinkedIn.
The good news is that you made it past the interview gatekeeper and to a phone interview. The bad news is that the phone interview is a real interview so you need to treat it as such. That means following all the same steps for preparing for a face to face interview.
Do your research.
On the company, the person interviewing you and the industry. A friend who has an HR consulting business recently shared on Facebook her frustration with the lack of preparation by candidates. After asking a candidate three times to tell her what he knew about the company and why he’d think he’d like to work there, and not getting a direct response, she ended the interview. She actually did the candidate a favor by telling him that she was disappointed with his lack of preparation. At least he got some feedback.
Study the job description.
Of all the interview prep tools at your disposal, the job description is the most important. It outlines exactly what the company is looking for. Highlight the key words in the job description. You can color code how well you match the qualifications using green (spot on), yellow (50/50) and red (no experience). Focus on the experience that you do have first. If you lack some of the desired qualifications, stating that you are a motivated and quick learner might help.
Review your resume.
Now that you’ve highlighted the key words in the job description, highlight your matches on your resume. Next, take notes of significant experiences and accomplishments that you can use to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience they are seeking to use to support your answers. You don’t want to be in the middle of an interview trying to think of a pithy response to an interview question.
Know your strengths and be able to articulate them.
Succinctly. It bears repeating – have specific examples that demonstrate your strengths in action. Saying that you are a great problem solver/communicator/analyst won’t cut it. Describing for the interviewer the time that you solved the problem/communicated effectively/analyzed that project and the results you created will.
Practice your answers.
Interviewing well is far harder than you think and it requires practice. Out loud. I advise clients to practice out loud all the time. Why? Because inside our heads, our responses are always perfect. They flow seamlessly. Out loud without practice? Not so much. Try practicing your interview responses while you are commuting or in the shower. It absolutely will feel awkward but no one but you will know what you are doing so you need not fear being embarrassed. You’ll be surprised at how much the practice pays off.
Schedule for success.
When setting up the interview, schedule it such that you have time to prepare for the interview and can be in a quiet place with no interruptions or distractions. Driving in your car does not qualify as a quiet place. Nothing is more annoying to an interviewer than not being able to hear you clearly because of background noise or getting the sense that they don’t have your undivided attention. And if you have roommates, consider locking your door to avoid a “Yo bro, seen my car keys?” moment. Yeah, it happens, just don’t let it happen to you.
Match your game to that of the interviewer’s.
Guess what? The interviewer definitely has prepared for the interview. They know what they are looking for, have their questions ready, and they have reviewed your resume. Chances are also quite good that they are seasoned interviewers. So why would you willingly walk into a situation where you did not bring your “A” game? Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, as the saying goes.
So, the next time that you have a phone interview, don’t use it as a “no preparation, I’m not really serious but just mulling about the opportunity” exercise, or you will be doing just that: telling the interviewer loudly and clearly that you are not the right person for the job. If you are curious enough to look, do yourself a favor and do the preparation. It rarely is a waste of time to hone your interviewing skills and it just might open the door to what could be the best job opportunity you’ve had in a long time.
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