Interview Tips

Successful Telephone Interviews

If you are seeking a new career opportunity, chances are you will be asked to engage in a telephone interview – a screening tool favored by most employers.  Telephone interviews allow hiring managers to explore a candidate’s work history and abilities as well as evaluate the candidate’s enthusiasm and interest level before committing to a face-to-face meeting, thus saving companies time and money.

At this stage, your mission is to sell yourself sufficiently to be invited in for a personal interview.  By following the guidelines below, you will learn how to create a proper first impression, thereby greatly increasing your chances of reaching your goal.

Schedule a specific time.

Suggest that you will make the call and arrange a specific time for the call to occur; you will be more prepared and more comfortable.

Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted by possible disturbances (e.g., your boss, family members, friends, pets, TV sets, stereos, etc.).  Locating a phone next to a desk or table will be most helpful since you will need several materials in front of you.  If you are participating in a phone interview at home, the kitchen is a preferred location – counter space for materials, minimal distractions and room to walk around allowing you to release nervous energy.

Be prepared for a complete interview.

Job candidates often make a big mistake:  They treat their first telephone interview with a prospective employer as a minor formality.  Don’t be fooled.  Companies look for reasons not to bring people in for interviews.  If you want to succeed, you must prepare for the initial “phone screen” as carefully as you will prepare later for the face-to-face interview.

In order to “sell” your skills and abilities effectively, you should keep the following items next to your phone:  your resume, a list of your accomplishments, probing questions about the company, a notepad, possible interview dates and times and a glass of water.

Be prepared (even rehearsed) to answer the following questions:

  1. Why are you interested in a career change?
  2. What are you looking for in your next position?
  3. Why are you interested in this position?
  4. What is your experience related to this position?
  5. What are your short and long-term goals?
  6. What can you tell me about our company?
  7. Tell me about yourself.

Questions for the hiring manager could include the following:

  1. What are you looking for in the “ideal candidate?”
  2. What are the critical factors for success on the job?
  3. What are your company’s short and long-term goals?
  4. Why is the position open?

By asking questions during the interview, you subtly start taking control of the conversation.

If you sense the interviewer relinquishing control, continue with your line of questions. Interject short responses intermittently to acknowledge the interviewer’s comments (e.g., “That’s interesting,” “I see,” “Great idea,” etc.).  Conclude responses with “check-back” phrases such as, “Does that answer your question?” “Is that what you’re looking for?”

Project a winning image.

In a face-to-face interview, your appearance and body language can help reinforce the impression you are trying to create.  Over the phone, however, their impression of you will be based on your voice and your answers.  Confidence and strong communication skills are a must.  However, you do have an edge – you have your home field advantage, familiar surroundings with your notes in front of you.

Listen to each question carefully and respond enthusiastically with concise, fact-filled sentences; responses should be limited to 90 seconds.  Describe your ability to impact the company by using specific dollar amounts and percentages to explain your past accomplishments.

Close for an interview.

As you proceed, try to get a feel for the chemistry or rapport that has been established.  If you feel the interviewer is impressed with you, and you are interested in pursuing the opportunity, do not hesitate to close the conversation by pushing for a face-to-face meeting:

“(Interviewer’s name), based on the information you have given me, I am very interested in pursuing this opportunity and would like to schedule a time for us to meet in person.  I’m available Tuesday through Friday over the next three weeks.”

If the interviewer agrees that the process should continue but cannot commit to a specific schedule, suggest that both parties should coordinate their respective schedules through the company’s search consultant.

If you are not interested in the position, don’t burn your bridges.  Your misconceptions may cause you to lose out on a great opportunity.   Express your concerns with the consultant – he or she may be able to clarify the information due to their intimate knowledge of the client.

By following these guidelines for the telephone interview, you will come across as a candidate who should be invited in for a personal interview.

Preparing for Your Interview

Your future career success may depend on how well you handle your upcoming interview.  Many highly qualified candidates fail to obtain positions simply because they interview poorly.  Your performance in the interview will be affected most by two factors:

  • How enthusiastic you seem
  • How well prepared you are

Many positive things can unfold during an interview.  Keep in mind that while an employer may have a specific personnel requirement to satisfy, an interview can be a forum for discovering even greater opportunities.  This may lead to expanding the position – and the compensation – for the right kind of candidate.

If you are poorly prepared, you will inspire little interest on the part of the employer.  As a result, you may never see the full extent of the opportunity, much less be offered the position.

No matter how well qualified you are, the success of the interview depends on your ability to demonstrate sincere interest in the employer’s needs.  You will need to ask and answer questions intelligently, while exhibiting your ability to make a real contribution to the employer and its objectives.

Things to Consider

Take advantage of a few surprising facts:

  • Well-prepared candidates often receive offers that better qualified competitors do not!
  • Few candidates bother to research a company prior to the interview.

Only one of ten candidates sells his or her abilities and accomplishments effectively.

  • Successful candidates always ask questions about the position and the employer.
  • One way to move toward the top of the list is to ask for the offer. (Companies want people who ask for the job.)

Recognize that an interview is a classic buyer and seller situation.  You must assume the role of seller in order to gain the employer’s interest in you as a candidate.

Make the Interview Work for You

Establish a relationship with the interviewer that permits a relaxed dialog and open exchange of information.  Be friendly and show interest in what the interviewer is saying.  Look for opportunities to demonstrate your interest in the opportunity, the interviewer and the employer.  Withhold questions about those issues (such as compensation) that can better be re- solved once an offer is imminent.  Maintain your self-esteem but do not dominate the conversation. Strike a comfortable balance between listening and asking or answering questions.

Consider the impression you are trying to create and discuss with your ETHOS Consultant any questions you may have concerning appropriate attire for the interview.

Anticipate “tough” questions the employer may ask and review them with your ETHOS Consultant.

Prepare key questions of your own that demonstrate your understanding of the company and its industry.  Review these with your ETHOS Consultant.

Be ready to discuss how you have performed in the past, particularly in solving problems similar to those likely to be encountered in the job.

Do not try to negotiate a compensation and benefits package until you know the employer is prepared to offer you the job, and then let your ETHOS Consultant take the lead.  If asked directly about your compensation requirements, mention your current actual compensation, including any bonuses, salary deferrals, etc.  Indicate to the employer that you would expect a fair and reasonable increase commensurate with the new position and its contribution to the company.

Before leaving any interview, express your sincere interest in pursuing this opportunity.

Following up After the Interview

Immediately after the interview several actions are critical:

  • Call your ETHOS Recruiter and “debrief” him or her on your meeting.
  • Write a thank-you letter to each key person you met.  Indicate your appreciation for the opportunity to discuss their organization and its needs. Be sure to re-emphasize any pertinent experiences and accomplishments you discussed that may uniquely qualify you for the opportunity.

If you initially decide that the opportunity fails to meet your needs, do not burn your bridges.  You may be misreading the situation. This warrants further discussion with your ETHOS Recruiter.  Remember that we likely have a very close relationship with the employer and can often resolve seemingly insurmountable issues.

Negative Factors Evaluated by An Interviewer

  • Personal appearance that is less than professional.
  • Overbearing, overaggressive or egotistical behavior.
  • No positive purpose.
  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm — passive and indifferent.
  • Lack of confidence and poise; nervousness.
  • Overemphasis on compensation.
  • Evasiveness; making excuses for unfavorable factors in work history.
  • Lack of tact, maturity and courtesy.
  • Condemnation of past employers, managers, projects or technologies.
  • Inability to maintain a conversation.
  • Lack of commitment to fill the position at hand.
  • Failure to ask questions about the position.
  • Persistent attitude of “What can you do for me?”
  • Lack of preparation for interview — failure to get information about the company, resulting in inability to ask intelligent questions.