6 Steps to a Great Phone Interview

by Stephen Jennings

Your resume looked great, it made it past the computers that were looking for keywords and you have now been asked to have a phone interview.  Congratulations!  You are one step closer to getting a face-to-face interview but you must first get through the phone interview. 

A phone interview is simply a screening out interview.  Usually it’s done by someone in the human resources department and they are going to ask you some basic questions to see how well you are qualified for the position and if they should invest in you enough to fly you to their company for an interview.  They will ask you to share examples and to have you walk them through your resume.  They will ask you additional questions based on what you put on your resume and want to know how you accomplished the items you listed. 

Take a phone interview as seriously as you would a face-to-face interview because if you don’t,  you won’t go any further. 

Here are 6 steps to having a great phone interview:

1. Study the company.  Read their mission statement and vision statement.  Look at their website under the “news” section to find out items they are currently doing or to see if they had recently experienced a success of some sort. You may be asked to share what you know about the company or why you would like to work for the company.  You can then share how you were excited to read about how they…fill in the blank with what you saw on their site.   

2. Read over the job posting you have applied for over and over and have examples of skills and experiences they listed.  You will be asked to share examples based on your resume and how it fits what they are looking for so have your examples ready.  Know what you want to share.

3. Write out the skills and experiences they listed in the posting on a large piece of paper and under each skill or experience list out the examples you have that match that experience or skill.  Now when you are asked to share an experience you can look at your paper and more easily answer.

4. Have a friend ask you some questions based on the experience or skills listed in the job posting.  For example if one of the skills is leadership they could ask: “Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team and there was conflict, what did you do?”  When answering a question keep it simple and try to answer the question within 2-3 min.  When you start to go beyond 3 min you begin to lose the other person.  A great way to do this is to follow the STAR method.  Share the Situation briefly, provide the Task, what Action did you take, what was the final Result. 

5. Dress like you were interviewing with them in person.  When you dress up for a phone interview it puts you in a more focused frame of mind.  When you do a phone interview in your shorts and a t-shirt your answers tend to be more relaxed and you don’t come across as credible.  It’s a mind game you’re playing on yourself but it works. 

6. Ask for the next interview.  As the interview is coming to a close you want to ask “Based on everything I have shared would there be any reason why I would not be asked to the next round of interviews?”  Now be quiet.  They may share a few items they were looking for that you did not share and at this point you still have the opportunity to share with them the examples.  Most likely they will say, “we still have other candidates to interview so I can’t give you an answer yet.”  You now want to thank them for the opportunity to interview for the position and thank them for their time.  Then simply say that based on my experience and what I have to offer XYZ Company I feel confident that I am ready to contribute to the company’s success and would like the opportunity to have a face-to-face interview.  Again, be quiet and let them respond.  Once the phone call is over send them an e-mail thanking them (make sure you get their e-mail). 

BONUS STEP:  Put together your Success Portfolio and have that in front of you during the interview.  You will now have your examples ready to go so when asked questions you will be able to answer them and have complete confidence.  Your Success Portfolio is where you will put all your experiences, skills, awards, letters/e-mails that show your ability, projects, etc…For more information on how to create your own personal Success Portfolio check out Graduate With a Job. 

Have a great phone interview!