Wednesday, April 9, 2008

5 Tips on Slaying the Phone Interview

Your phone rings, and Caller ID tells you it’s a company on your target list where you've sent your resume. Congratulations – you made the short list.

So now what?

Job seekers can kill their chances during the phone screen. Often, experienced professionals don’t appreciate what a critical part of the interview process the phone screen is. The phone screen is much more than scheduling an in person interview…it’s the first part of the interview, but it’s usually handled by an HR clerk or internal recruiter.

What can you gain from a phone screen? You can gain an interview appointment early in the schedule, giving you the chance to set the bar. You can gain HR’s support, which can help in the case of a close choice between two top candidates. Or you can blow it, and get lost or buried.

Here’s 5 tips on how to get the most out of the phone interview:

1. Do it on YOUR Terms – Let the call go to voice mail. If you’ve sent out individually customized resumes, and tracking your resumes to measure response rates, as this blog recommends, then how will you know which of the many versions of your resume the HR rep is viewing? If you’re looking at a different version, you won’t emphasize that your unique skills are the best solution to the target company’s problems. Call the HR rep back when you are sitting in front of a computer, or with a printed version of the job description, your notes on the company, and the specific version of your resume in front of you.

When you call back, expect to get the HR rep’s voice mail. Much of their day is spent on outbound phone calls. If you get their voice mail, give two possible times when you’ll call them back, and ask which is better. Ask the HR rep to email you confirmation – this a) cuts the phone tag game and b) give you the HR rep’s email address.

2. Be alert and in a good mood – Don’t call back until you are well rested, and in a good mood. As any salesperson will attest, your mood carries through on the phone.

3. Be fast – A quick turnaround gives you the chance to schedule an interview early in the schedule. Also, replying quickly gives the impression that you’re excited about the opportunity.

4. Have Questions – Have one or two questions prepared for the HR screen. It will make you look more interested in the job, and will help you learn more about the company. Make these lighter questions – Ask about dress code, corporate culture, types of people who excel at this company. Don’t ask about salary, benefits, or flexible work schedules yet…you’re still too early in the game.

5. Write a thank you note – The phone screen is an interview, yet almost nobody sends a thank you note afterwards. Not only does it make you stand out and impress the HR rep, it gives you another chance to form a positive impression with the company and advertize your personal brand. Keep in mind timing – if you are interviewing in two days, don’t mail a handwritten thank you (the HR rep won’t get it in time). See my earlier article on Thank you notes for ideas.

How will you change how you handle phone screens during your career search?

If you’d like more information, a free 30 minute resume consultation, or some advice about your career transition, just email your resume to reCareered at, and we'll schedule a time to talk.

1 comment:

Spark! said...

Number 5 is a new one I had not considered! Great idea!