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The Phone Interview: A Guide

Integrity Staffing & Solutions

At various times in our career and job searching we’ve all been through the typical job application process: submit resume, interview, skills assessments, and so on.  A standard one-on-one interview with the hiring manager or recruiter is so common place, we’ve all experienced them.  A panel or group interview, while it may be more intimidating, is also pretty typical.  These are the types of interviews we have come to expect while job hunting.  It is these interviews on which we have read numerous articles, practiced with our peers, and have first-hand experience with.  But what do you do when an employer opts to begin the interview process with a phone call?

Phone Interviews

This may not sound very tricky but there are a lot of details you need to consider when planning for a phone interview:

  • Noise: Arrange to go to a quiet, empty room.  Let your household know that you are interviewing and there should be no interruptions.  You are not the only one who will be able to hear the TV, kids, music, etc. going on around you; the interviewer will hear it as well.
  • Distractions: Schedule your interview during a time that you will not have competing interests.  Don’t plan the call for when you need to be cooking dinner, driving, or working.  You need to be able to give your full attention to the conversation and not be distracted by multitasking.
  • Availability: Make sure you are promptly available and in your quiet space in time for the phone interview so that you are able to answer the call.  If for some reason you do miss the initial call, call the interviewer back and apologize for missing it.  A long, detailed explanation isn’t required, but an apology is because you were late for the appointment.
  • Time: When scheduling the phone interview, ask how long you can expect it to take so that you can appropriately plan your time.  Also, keep in mind that the phone interview can take longer than estimated, so don’t schedule it when your time is tight.

Some Good News

All of your prior preparation for a typical interview will not go to waste.   Some of the same types of questions may be asked in a phone screen as well as in a face-to-face interview.  To best prepare for the phone interview, thoroughly review the job description or posting and be able to explain why you applied for and are interested in the position.  Be able to generally outline your experience as it applies directly to the position (i.e. for a Customer Service Representative position you may be asked, “What is your customer service philosophy?”, or, “Tell me about the typical types of customer service interactions you have been responsible for.”)

Phone interviews assist recruiters in narrowing down the candidate pool.  Anticipate questions about specific qualifications (Are you a Certified Nursing Assistant?  Do you have a Bachelor’s in Accounting?  Are you experienced with QuickBooks?), salary expectations, or ability to work evenings and weekends.  Answer the questions honestly or you may end up wasting a lot of your time and theirs.