The first step for most interview processes is a phone interview. Whether it’s with the corporate recruiter, local HR, or directly with the Hiring Manager, these calls present an interesting set of potential pitfalls for candidates.
The interviewer is generally looking to see if you sound competent and have the experience they’re looking for. Do you sound like you have the basic character and professional traits for their company?
The goal of most phone interviews is the same: get a chance to visit the facility and meet face to face, but often, people don’t get to that next step.
So, let’s talk through some of the ways you’re messing up your phone interviews.
The phone interview is every bit as important as the face to face, and requires your full attention. If you’re talking to other people, or the interviewer can hear Spongebob in the background of the call, they’re going to wonder how interested you really are.
So, before any phone interview, find a way to get somewhere quiet. Lock the kids or pets in another room, and turn off the TV.
If you’re in the car, pull over for the duration of the call. Aside from it being dangerous to drive while on the phone, driving will also pull your attention away from the phone call. Pull over into a parking lot or rest stop, turn off the radio, and focus on the call.
This is a professional call, you should be able to give it your full attention, or don’t bother at all.
I often hear that the candidate’s answers were slow, as if they were having to google their own job history, and they weren’t precise in their answers. In some cases, I’ll hear that it didn’t seem like the candidate knew what position they were even interviewing for!
A really good way to fail a phone interview is to not be prepared. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. So:
Find out about the person you’re going to be interviewing with. Are they a technical guru, or are they heavier on the leadership skills? Hop on LinkedIn and find out what their background is; maybe there’s some common ground somewhere there.
Print off the position description and tailor your answers to the description. If the description focuses on the technical skills needed, reference those skills in your background. If it focuses on the supervisory experiences, reference your experiences as a leader of a team.
Lastly, know your own background! I know, you lived it! But, I always recommend walking through your resume before a call to keep things fresh. If you’re stumbling over your own background, or having to stop and recall a project from just six months ago, why would I trust you to run any part of my facility?
Also, key in on statistics and methodology: don’t just say, “I decreased waste.” Put a number to it, and talk about how you and your team accomplished it.
Don’t curse on a phone interview. This one feels simple and obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we hear back from employers that the candidate cursed in the initial phone screen and they’re not interested in moving forwards.
While we’re on the topic, let’s avoid religion and politics as well…
Bottom line, there’s a tendency to not take phone screens seriously. This is a problem since just about every big company in the industry requires AT LEAST one of these with HR before you can have a face to face meeting.
So, take it seriously. Find a quiet place, prepare in advance, and be professional. You might just get to that face to face meeting.