Master the Phone Interview

Your resume is the initial thing that piques the recruiter’s interest, but the phone screen interview is how you get your foot in the door. This is your first live introduction to the company and it’s your only chance to bring your “A” game. Approach landing a job as you would dating… you wouldn’t wear your pj’s on your first date because you’d want to make a good impression – same concept! If you’re lucky enough to get past the resume screen and receive a phone interview request, it’s time to put on your (figurative) best outfit to increase your chances of making it past HR.

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Scheduling the Phone Interview

The recruiter or sourcer who is trying to connect with you in person, is in the process of scheduling several calls with other people – you know, the other qualified candidates. The easiest way to make a good first impression, is to make his/her life easier.

Be Available.

When you receive an availability request, BE available. One thing that constantly annoys me when I’m recruiting, are any of the following responses to my phone interview request (stated as follows: “Hi Joe, I’d like to set-up a 30 minute phone interview with you. Will you please let me know what your availability looks like over the next several days so we can get something scheduled?”)

  • Response 1: I’m wide open, just let me know what works for you
  • Response 2: 10:30am tomorrow works for me

With response one, not only do you come across as somewhat desperate to find a job even though your intent was to be accommodating, but you also have now necessitated an additional email exchange with me checking a date/time back with you. I don’t need any additional emails, promise. Response two only provides me one option – a) you didn’t follow my instructions so I’m wondering if you didn’t pay attention, b) I think that you don’t want a new job, c) perhaps you’re a bit self-centered, thinking you’re the only one with a busy schedule.

Instead, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • “Hi Recruiter, I’m excited for the opportunity to meet with you via phone about the position. Here’s my availability, please let me know if you’d like additional dates/times, or feel free to schedule during any of the available time slots below, and I can be reached at 404-867-5309. I look forward to connecting with you. I’m free: Monday, 9 – 11am, after 2pm; Tuesday, 12 – 3pm; or Wednesday, 9 – 11am. ”

I can see exactly when you are free and will work your availability into my schedule. Then all I have to do is simply email you back my preferred date and time, and viola – we are confirmed!

Be reachable.

Now that we have a set time to speak, make it a priority to actually be able to… speak. Make sure that you are reachable via a reliable connection. Cell phones are usually reliable connections these days, but they are definitely NOT fail-proof. I have had several recent interviews where the cell phone dropped the call because they were apparently in a poor coverage area. Here’s the thing, I know that you’re not responsible for the technology malfunctioning, but the bottom line is, you’ve wasted my time when your phone drops and we have to try and track each other down again – bad first impression. Here are the biggest no-no’s:

  • Do not schedule a phone interview when you are going to be driving in the car. Period. I don’t care if you have hands free, you’re not giving me your full attention, so I’m not inclined to give you mine. In addition, I do not want to hear a car wreck over the phone.
  • Make sure you have a quiet place to have the call – being outside in the wind, does not count.
  • Remove any ring-back music from your cell line. Honestly people.
  •  Google voice – I’m torn on this one, as I love the potential of Google voice, but it’s rude when it asks me my name before it rings, and it’s even worse when you don’t pick up because now I think you’ve screened the call. Perhaps it’s a paranoia thing or something.

Best advice to increase your reachability factor – if you are currently unemployed and are having a lot of phone interviews, I would recommend springing for a home phone line, however archaic as that sounds. I actually purchased a Magic Jack about a year ago when I started working out of my home office, so I was able to have a “land line” when I needed it. It was super cheap and I still use it for business calls when needed.

The phone screen interview is a critical piece in the hiring process, and one that many people overlook because it doesn’t hold the glitz, glamour and necessary attire, as an in-person interview has. However, this IS the gatekeeper call – in order to even have a chance of meeting the hiring manager, you have to ace this part of the process. Small things my peeps, small things – make it EASY and they will like you. Definitely not as catchy as “If you build it, they will come,” but hopefully you get my drift.