Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

By Brandon Czerwinski, Talent Acquisition Manager

We’ve all been there. After sending your resume out to a zillion places, someone finally responds. They invite you for a job interview – but there’s a catch. The first one’s over the phone.

You’re frustrated. Normal interviews are already awkward enough, but now they want you to add an extra layer by speaking over the phone! Or maybe you’re already an experienced professional, so you bemoan the qualities you have that won’t translate over the phone. It all comes down to one thing: can we just skip the unpleasantness of a phone call?

The fact of the matter is that our interconnected world has opened up so many forms of communication that many of us have lost touch with the art of the phone conversation. Whether we’re texting, Skyping (or FaceTiming – whatever you feel like calling it), emailing, or aiming for a voicemail in the hopes that someone won’t pick up, no one wants to bother with a phone call. It’s either too much or not enough.

But at the end of the day, it’s still the go-to form of communication for a lot of companies. In some of my roles as a recruiter, all of my interviewing was done over the phone. Some companies will reason that it is enough to make a decision on; others will inevitably rely on it because their recruiters source over a large area – perhaps even nationally.

So if phones aren’t going away, what is there to do? Well, here’s a few suggestions from a guy who has been on both sides of the phone (me):

Don’t treat it like a phone interview!

So it’s over the phone. So what? You’re still trying to deliver the same information you would in an in-person interview, right? Dress the part, act the part. Don’t just be on time – be early. This is something that goes a long way in putting you in the right mindset for the interview.

Have your notes ready.

What did you send the recruiter? Is it something you’re going to have for the interview? If not, why not? Having your own resume handy may seem redundant, but it can help you collect your thoughts when discussing key points regarding your history. Think about it: are you really going to remember every little detail about yourself without a guide?

Smile when you answer the phone.

This might sound silly, but it can be extremely helpful. It’s practically Call Center Worker 101 because it works. Just as dressing for the part will put you in the right mindset, smiling will keep your voice upbeat and positive. The recruiter wants to hear someone eager to be their solution on the other end of the line – not just another half-interested applicant.

Choose an advantageous location, if you can.

Would you hold an interview in your car? How about with kids running around? No probably not, but let’s be realistic: you might have to depending on your situation. Still, it’s best to take an interview call in as appropriate a setting as possible. Try to keep the room clear so that you can gather your thoughts. If this isn’t possible, try to make the setting as ideal as you can.

Follow up after the interview.

This isn’t exclusive to phone interviews. It’s always important to follow up with any interview. Even if you aren’t selected, you could find another opportunity or gain valuable feedback by debriefing with your interviewer at a later date. If the interviewer doesn’t give you a means to follow up, ask for one, be it a phone number or an email address. A thank you message can still go a long way in helping your odds.

Practice, practice, practice!

Also not a phone-only rule; always make sure you’re prepared for the interview. Review your resume, review the company, and review the position. Discuss with others so that you have a sounding board before the interview. Whatever you do, don’t go into the interview without any level of preparation. The right mindset and tools won’t get you far if you haven’t practiced.

These suggestions might seem like little things, but they can tip the scales on a phone interview to get you in front of someone for the next steps. For now, the phone interview is here to stay. If you love it, great! But if you don’t, hopefully the aforementioned pointers will at least get you acclimated to them.

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