Since we haven't descended into SMS texting interviews quite yet (praise be to Google), phone interviews are still a regular staple of the job hunter.
Today I'm telegraphing over some top tips for owning the phone interview.
- Find a good location. Make sure you are in an area with good cellphone reception (or, ideally, use a landline), where it's quiet enough to hear and calm enough to give the interview your full attention. So, definitely not a Trader Joe's on a Sunday afternoon or a Starbucks during school vacation week.
- Do your research. Take time to familiarize yourself with the company--check out their website, take a look at their blog, and get a general sense for what they're all about (pro tip: if you can mention a specific recent company blog post and explain why you liked it, you'll get major bonus points for doing your homework).
- Stalk your interviewer on LinkedIn. Add your interviewer on LinkedIn and see what they've been up to. What school did they go to? What were their past jobs? Do you have any similar interests in common? You never know, you may find a great point of connection. Most people won't mind if you bring up this LinkedIn-sleuthing directly--in fact, they may appreciate that you took the time to learn more about them. It's not like you found them on Tinder.
- Prepare notes (and keep them handy). One great thing about phone interviews is that you can create a little cheat sheet for yourself, just like that coveted 3x5 index card you were allowed to bring to your high school final exams. Go ahead and jot down questions, and outline answers to common questions or other info you want to make sure you mention.
- Practice your answers. In many ways you'll want to treat the phone interview as you would an in-person interview. Consider your answers to common interview questions beforehand (your best/worst traits, occasions in which you faced a challenge, where you see yourself in five years, etc.)
- Dress the part. The image we project of ourselves doesn't just communicate through appearance--it shows in our mannerisms, speech, and other subtle cues. Dressing up for a phone interview may sound silly, but the right clothing will put you in the right mindset. At the very least, change out of those pajamas. Please, that Ninja Turtles T-shirt is starting to smell weird.
- Keep your weapons handy. Have your resume, cover letter, and the job description handy, whether in paper form on your desk or a few clicks away on some Chrome tabs.
- Smile like you're in Disneyland. Your interviewer (or, as I like to think of her, quizmaster) will pick up on your tone. In fact, she will be paying even more attention to it, since she doesn't get to see your lovely face. People can hear your smile, which makes them smile and think positive thoughts about you on the other end of the line. So go ahead, grin big!
- Keep it conversational. Remember, quizmasters aren't just looking for the perfect candidate--they want to find an employee they will enjoy working with too; someone they can chat with about the latest Game of Thrones episode. That's why you'll want to use a friendly, conversational tone in your interviews, rather than robotically answering the questions put forth to you like you're being held at gunpoint.
- Speak clearly. As moms around the world will forever remind you--annunciate! No mumbling is allowed around these parts. Speak clearly so your quizmaster can hear you properly, and keep water handy in case your mouth gets dry.
- Show enthusiasm!! Ask about different aspects of the job and express genuine interest and excitement about the opportunity. Like, wow! Don't be afraid to dig for more details about the position--we all know how vague and horrifically bland job postings can be, often packed with tech garble that's difficult to decipher. You need to get a real sense of the job to know if it's a good fit for you.
- Avoid etiquette awkwardness. When dealing with an initial phone interview, it's best to sit tight about benefit and salary questions. This first interview is about impressing your quizmaster and showing all that you can offer the company. Save the nitty-gritty dollar billz questions for later discussions. On the other hand, if your interviewer brings the salary issue up, go ahead and serve a fresh hot cup of honesty.
- Show off your smarts with Alex Trebek-esque questions. When the interviewer asks what question you have, that's your big chance to shine. It's good to always have a few questions prepared beforehand, but don't be afraid to let the natural flow of the conversation inspire you. Questions show interest, so don't skimp! (One fan favorite is: What will be the biggest challenge of this role in the next six months?). It's also smart to do a little research into the company's competition, and ask how they're different or why they're better.
- Ask if they have any questions for you. Once you've finished up your Q&A with the quizmaster, end things by asking if she has any more questions for you. It's a nice way to cap off the conversation and gives her a chance for any last-minute concerns.
- What are the next steps? As the interview wraps up, make sure to ask what the expected next steps are regarding the position and when you can expect to hear about a follow-up. Not only is this valuable info to have, it also reinforces that you're truly interested. You can skip this step if the interview went really badly--like, if you involuntarily yelled some racial slur or got into talking about your porcelain salt-and-pepper shaker collection. In that case, just make some fake static noises and hightail it out of there.
- Follow-up with thanks. Always shoot your interviewers a quick thank you note. It doesn't have to be a notarized letter of excessive acclamation--just a brief email of thanks will do (although sending a snail mail letter would certainly make you memorable). Sending a word of thanks simply shows that you appreciate the quizmaster taking time out of her busy day to chat with you. And who doesn't appreciate appreciation?
- Don't phone it in. Treat the phone interview with the same seriousness and preparation that you would give to an in-person interview. Remember, this could be the first step to the best job you've ever had!
Those are my best phone interview tips. Do you have any to add?