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How to Ace Your Telephone Interview - Unscheduled Phone Interview

Updated on March 29, 2012
Telephone Interview
Telephone Interview | Source


Have you ever had a telephone interview?

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The Telephone Interview

Over the past 6 months I have applied to what feels like hundreds of jobs. I have very little experience because I’ve stayed home with my children for the last 10 years so I am applying for anything and everything to see what I can get. I don’t really know what I want to do for a career yet since I haven’t experienced many different settings. That being said, I also do not have experience interviewing. Imagine my surprise when I learned my first interview in 10 years was to be by telephone! The Internet quickly became my best friend as I feverishly researched telephone interview etiquette. I read paper after paper from recruiters explaining how to ace the telephone interview. I compiled a list of all the important facts from each paper and made myself a cheat sheet to leave by my telephone. Here I share with you the knowledge I gained over a period of 9 days in my obsessive desire to have the perfect telephone interview.

Telephone interviews are increasing in popularity. Sometimes they’re used as a simple screening procedure to weed out under qualified candidates and other times they’re used as an invaluable way to seriously interview a candidate who lives far away without paying for travel expenses. Some interviewers want you to be prepared and will only conduct the interview during a prescheduled time. This is the ideal situation because you can have notes prepared, you can be sure there is minimal background noise and no distractions, and you can take a moment to center yourself before the interview begins. Other interviewers want to catch you off guard to see if you can think fast on your feet and to see if you have superb communication skills. If you are not prepared for an unscheduled telephone interview don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer if you can call back in 10 minutes when you’ve completed something you’re currently working on. Then use those 10 minutes to prepare as best as possible.

How to Prepare for the Telephone Interview

Only take the call when you are ready.If possible schedule the telephone interview during a quiet time when you can devote your entire attention to the call.If the interviewer makes an unscheduled call do not hesitate to ask for a few minutes to complete another task.You could say “I’m very interested in taking this call but you caught me in the middle of something. Would it be alright if I took 10 minutes to complete this task and then called you back?” If the interviewer says no you may want to reconsider the company as a potential employer. If the interviewer says yes thank him or her, prepare your notes and yourself in the 10 minutes, call the interviewer back, and then thank the interviewer for allowing you time to complete the previous task.

Remove all distractions.Take the phone call in a quiet room away from all distractions such as roommates, family, the television, or the radio. Keep background noise to a minimum and go to another room, preferably one with a door you can close. You will need your full attention on the telephone call and the slightest distraction coupled with nerves can send the best of us into a tailspin.

Resumes | Source
Notebook - take notes!
Notebook - take notes! | Source

Keep your telephone interview tools by the phone. If you are applying for a job and you learn that a telephone interview is to be conducted prepare the following and leave it beside the telephone and ready at all times:

  • Your resume: If you tailor your resume to certain positions you will need to have a copy of the resume you applied with on hand. Many times the interviewer will want you to explain your resume in more detail without actually reading it like a resume. This is when you can fill in between the lines and include information that may have previously made the resume too long.
  • Pen and paper: You can take down the interviewer’s name, the location of the interviewer, questions that arise during the interview and any other necessary information such as next steps to take in the interview process.
  • Company research: You should always know at least the basic information of the company to which you are applying. An interviewer may ask why you think you’d be a good fit for the company – you do not want to say “I don’t know, what do ya’ll do again?” Be sure to have a few questions about the company too in order to show that you did your research and you truly are interested in the company as a long-term career. However, don’t ask about salary and benefits right away. Hopefully the interviewer will bring this up on his or her own.
  • Lists: These lists should include your strengths and weaknesses, your experience as it relates to the position in question, and a list of goals and expectations from the position such as “I would love to come into the company as an entry level marketer, learn the organization from the ground up, and eventually move into a managerial position.” The previous statement shows an interest in learning the basics of the company and an interest in your future with the company.

Stand when talking during the interview. Your position affects the quality of your voice due to air flow. If you are slouched in a sitting position you will not project the same enthusiasm and interest as you would from a standing position. Also smile while you talk, the interviewer really can hear it in your voice.

Let the interviewer end the call. Get the interviewer’s name and an address in case he or she is not local. Send a note of thanks to the interviewer – state your continued interest in the position and thank him or her for the time he or she took to learn about you and your qualifications.

Typical Interview Questions:

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • How do you handle stressful situations?
  • Can you accept constructive criticism?
  • What is the toughest problem you've had to face, and how did you overcome it?
  • Have you ever had to discipline a problem employee? If so, how did you handle it?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • Why are you the best person for this job?

Questions you can ask when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?” Ask questions about the company or the job position. Do not ask questions about money or benefits just yet. Some acceptable questions are:

  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Is there anything I’ve mentioned that makes you think I’m not the best candidate for this job?
  • When do you expect to make your final decision?

I wish you the best of luck on your telephone interview. Remember, you’re selling yourself here so don’t hesitate to make yourself sound great!

Update 1/17/2012 I did get the position that I interviewed for!!


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