Tips from Behind the Scenes of a Phone Interview

The phone interview. It's the first step, in most cases, in the interview process. In my personal experience, phone interviews have lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour. Here are some questions you should prepare and how to still sound your best when interviewing on the phone.

Freelance Writer; Blogger

Originally Posted: Nov 17, 2011
Last Updated: Nov 17, 2011

The phone interview. It's the first step, in most cases, in the interview process. In my personal experience, phone interviews have lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour. Companies use phone interviews to learn a little bit more about you before they take up your time, and their time, arranging an in-person interview.

Here are some questions you should prepare and how to still sound your best when interviewing on the phone.

1. What attracted you to this position?

Now is the time for you to mention the reason you are interested in the position and to show your excitement. It’s also a time to bring up, briefly, what you have done in the past that is connected to the position.

2. What do you know about this company?

Do some research on the company beforehand, but don’t stress about memorizing the date the company was founded and by whom. Your research about the company and the industry should help you feel confident in your statements, but rest assured that the interviewer just wants to know that you know enough about the company, and yourself, to advocate that you are a good fit.

3. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Essentially the interviewer is asking you if you plan on being committed to the company and to the career field. If the company is a good fit for you, then you will have similar goals. It’s not advisable to say that you will be leaving the company after a few months or to talk about your personal life/goals. Go into this interview with your professional goals in mind so that you are not put on the spot.

4. Tell me about your school and work experiences up until now.

This one threw me for a loop, because the interviewer did not ask me about one experience in particular; instead, she wanted to know everything. In this situation, stay focused. I did not. I yammered on about everything I had done and didn’t stress the most important parts or connect it to the position to which I had applied. I’m sure the person on the other end was yawning.

Think about what is essential for you to mention in this particular situation so that it is clear to the interviewer that you will do a good job in the position. A good tip is to prepare a list of your top five experiences, whether professionally or in school, which will specifically apply to the position you are interviewing for. Have those written down so you don’t lose track of time or your interviewer.

5. Why do you feel you are a good fit for this position?

When this question is asked of you, pinpoint your previous experiences that most directly correlate with this position. Also, bring up the skills you have and use specific examples to back up your statements. When considering this question, look back at the job description and required skills. What have you done that relates to the requirements and how do you showcase the desired skills?

6. Is there anything else you want to tell me?

If you say, “nothing,” it doesn’t come across well. There is always something interesting and pertinent you can say about yourself that didn’t come up during the interview. It’s good to come up with some ideas ahead of time for, just in case you didn’t get to everything in the more formal part of the interview.

7. What questions can I answer for you?

Always have questions for the interviewer. Preparing well thought-out questions shows that you are truly interested in the company and want to know more about it. At this point, leave out questions regarding pay. That will come up later. Instead, ask, for example, about the day-to-day duties of the job, or what the interviewer views as the most rewarding part of the position. A good rule of thumb is to ask about five questions, but it’s better to have intelligent questions than to have that exact number.

Be sure to keep these tips in mind during your phone conversation:

1. Stay professional

I have had very colloquial and friendly interviewers. My advice is, of course, be friendly, but always maintain a level of professionalism. In fact, consider dressing up for the phone interview. The idea may seem strange, but it is a reminder that although it is a phone interview, it is an interview nonetheless.

2. Take your time answering questions

It’s never expected that you jump right in to answering a question without giving any thought to it. Think things over for a few seconds, even if you do have something planned to say.

3. …but indicate that you are thinking

Since you are not face-to-face, the interviewer does not know what you are doing. I am someone who constantly nods in response to what is being said. However, on the phone, no one can see me doing this. I remind myself that it’s important to say “yes” or to otherwise indicate I am listening to the interviewer and am on the same page.

4. Take advantage of the fact that you can’t be seen

Have your résumé, information about the company, the job description, and anything else you want out in front of you during the phone conversation. This will aid you in staying on track, and it will be your own little secret.

Above all, take phone interviews seriously. Succeeding in them will be the only way that you will have a chance in moving forward in the interview process with the company, bringing you one step closer to landing a job.

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About Kristen Fackler

Kristen Fackler

Kristen is a May 2011 graduate of Elon University, with a bachelor of science in English and Spanish. While at Elon, Kristen had the opportunity to complete a lot of writing and editing, two areas she has always been passionate about. At the Writing Center, she worked as a consultant with peers and community members to improve their writing skills. She also worked as an editor of Visions, an environmental magazine published by Elon faculty and students. While in college, Kristen was able to spend a semester in Seville, Spain. During the time she was there, Kristen was able to keep a blog in Spanish. She also was published in más+menos* magazine, a bilingual magazine completed by students and faculty members of CIEE Study Center. Kristen has also written for Examiner and is currently writing for Suite101. She enjoys writing as much as possible.

You can circle Kristen on Google+, follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog.


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