Wednesday, July 21, 2004


About Phone Interview


Phone interviews are becoming very popular these days. For employers, they are a cost- and time-effective way to test your qualifications, interest, desired compensations, etc, and see if there is a match between you and the position. The interview results can be used to select a pool of qualified candidates for on-site interviews. This type of interview is ideal for screen candidates who are living out of the state. For job seekers, they are the trial run for the on-site interviews and are some opportunities that you should not bumble. Your goal is not to get an offer, but to secure an on-site interview from the interviewer or the hiring manager. Since the interviewer can not see you during the phone call, so you can take notes or have a written list of questions you want to ask handy. The disadvantage is that you can not use your body language.

Phone Interview Tips

Phone interview tips: before the interview:

Write down your contact information including your phone number and email address in your cover letter.
Record a short and professional answering machine message in case the interviewer has to leave a message.
Get a high quality phone and make sure you can hear clearly on the phone.
Keep your resume, pen, paper, calendar, company information by the phone. You may also want to keep a list of questions you'd like to ask the interviewer and answers to questions you anticipate being asked by the phone.
Find a quiet place to take the call, you don't want to have radio, TV, children or pets in the background.
Phone interview tips: during the interview:

Suggest an alternative time if it's not convenient for you to take the call.
Ask the interviewer's name and contact information so that you can call or email him back.
Don't chew gum, smoke, drink or eat during phone interviews.
Speak slowly and clearly. You can practice phone interview beforehand, but don't sound scripted when you answer questions.
Smile and keep plenty of energy and enthusiasm in your voice. Looking into a mirror can give you instant feedback and help keep your self-conscious.
Stand up. Many people think that if you stand while talking on the phone, you are more alert and sound more animated.
Turn off call waiting feature before the interview, you don't want your phone interview to be interrupted.
Be a good listener. Allow the interviewer finish his question before you respond. Ask for clarification if necessary.
Always ask questions. It shows your interest in the position. But don't ask questions about salary and benefits. It's not the time yet.
Take note during the phone interview.
Always ask about the next step. Your goal of the phone interview is to get a face-to-face interview.
Phone interview tips: after the interview:

Make a phone interview log and write down the interviewer's name, title, contact information, the position you interviewed and what's the next step after the interview.
Send a thank you letter to the interviewer immediately.

Phone Interview Questions

A savvy interviewer will always review some typical phone interview questions and prepare answers for them beforehand. Depending on the company, a phone interview may be conducted by a human resource professional, a third-party recruiter, or even the hiring manager. Human resource professionals usually ask questions to verify your qualifications and your resume information. Recruiters and hiring managers may ask some technical questions. Below are some frequently asked questions during phone interviews:

Can you tell me a little about yourself?
What made you apply for this position?
How many years of experience do you have in _____?
What are the top duties you perform in your current position?
Why are you considering leaving your current position?
What do you know about this company/position?
what is the most important thing you're looking for in a company/job?
What is the most significant accomplishment you have made in your career?
How well do you handle stress?
What is your greatest weakness/strength?
How would you rate your communication skills?
What do you see yourself in five years?
When would you be available?
What's your salary expectation?
Do you have any questions?

Interview Thank You Notes (After Phone Interview)

You should always follow up your phone interviews by writing interview thank you notes. Not only is this a nice thing to do, it also is helpful for your successful job search. Those who feel they are appreciated will be more likely to remember you and further help you in your job application and recommend you to others. Be sure to restate your interest in the job and emphasize your qualifications. This letter should also be sent out within 24 hours of completing the interview.

In the first paragraph, thank the interviewer for taking the time to interview you. Cite the date on which you interviewed and personalize your letter. Hopefully, you have already received an email from the interviewer before the phone interview, so you should have the interviewer's name. But if not, you can ask the interviewer during the phone interviewer.

In the second paragraph, restate you interest in the position and point out some of your most important qualifications based on what you learned through the interview. You can also highlight your relevant skills that you forgot or did have time to mention during the phone interview.

In the last paragraph, once again, express your appreciation for the phone interview and affirm your interest in the position and the company.

The following is a sample interview thank you note after phone interview:

Ms. Janet Jackson
Director of Human Resources
XYZ Company
567 Central St
Los Angels, CA 90012

Dear Ms. Jones:

Thank you for taking the time yesterday to discuss the Software Engineer position at XYZ company. As you requested, I have enclosed my resume for your review and consideration.

My background includes extensive experience in the full life cycle of software design process including requirements definition, prototyping, proof of concept, design, interface implementation, testing, and maintenance. I'm familiar with financial software products and have also led a team of three researchers in the past two years.

I suggest a personal interview to discuss further my qualifications, I can be reached at 797-8865345, so that we may arrange a mutually convenient time to meet. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Job Seeker


Phone Interview Etiquette Can Propel You to the Next Step in the Hiring Process
by Maureen Crawford Hentz

One of the parts of my job that I love the most is conducting phone interviews with candidates. This past week I've conducted more than 50 of these interviews, with other members of the staff team conducting at least 70 more! Since this experience is so fresh in my mind, it's a great time to share phone-interviewing etiquette advice.

Phone interviews are terrifying to some job seekers and absolutely painless to others. Regardless of your feelings about phone interviews, you can develop techniques and skills that will maximize your phone interview's impact on the hiring staff. Here are some phone interviewing tips to get you going:

It's important to prepare for a successful phone contact even as you are applying for positions. I recommend that the last paragraph of every application letter include contact information in the event the recruiter needs to contact you with questions or offer an interview. When providing this information, it's important to list the number(s) at which you can be reached, indicating whether or not it is acceptable to be contacted at your current position. Also include your email address if you check it often. Even if your letter is on a letterhead that includes contact information, it never hurts to repeat the information in the last paragraph.

In certain circumstances it may be important to give additional contact information. For example, a college student going on spring break during the contact interval after submitting a letter and resume might choose to include a sentence such as "From March 17 to March 29, I will be out of the state/out of the country on spring break. During that time I can be reached at this number/I will be unreachable/I will be unreachable by phone but plan to check my email daily." An applicant who cannot be contacted during work hours might include information such as "Although I prefer to receive messages at my home number, I check messages frequently throughout the day and can usually return calls during breaks." Finally, if you will soon be moving, include 搖ntil?dates with your phone, email and mailing information.

Next, think about your answering machine message. A trend observed by many recruiters is voicemails/answering machines that treat incoming callers to a snippet of music from the resident's favorite band of the moment. When I was a 20-something myself, I felt that my three-minute Depeche Mode greeting was an expression of my individuality and coolness; as a recruiter, I am mildly annoyed if the concert goes on too long before I can leave a message. It's important to decide what's right for you while at the same time creating a professional impression.

It is helpful if recruiters can be sure they've called the right number. For privacy and security issues, many people do not list their first names, last names, or telephone numbers on their answering-machine/voicemail greetings. My recommendation is usually to leave one of these identifiers in the message: "You've reached Amy, Cathy, and Mark. Please leave a message" or "You've reached the Sizemores. Please leave a message" or "You've reached 617-973-5235. Please leave a message." Again, each job seeker must determine what is comfortable. Don't change your message if you feel uncomfortable about having this information on your outgoing greeting.

If you have roommates, housemates, a spouse, or children it's important to work out a system of message-taking. Twice this week, I have called a candidate only to be greeted by a toddler who told me, "Daddy's in the shower" before she hung up. If you anticipate a "season" of job searching, it might be a good idea to invest in individual voicemail boxes for each member of your household. You can also instruct them not to answer the phone unless they can carefully write down the entire message and remember to give it to you (this strategy works equally well for both preschoolers and roommates!).

After you mail your applications and while you are waiting for the phone to ring is a good time to create a mini-job log to have near the phone. My advice to job-searchers without photographic memory is to make a list of the companies at which they've applied and the titles of the positions applied for. Some people even list qualifications requested for each position. (See a Sample Phone Interview Log.) Thus, if you are called by hiring staff, you will have some idea of which job they're calling about. This week of phone interviewing has really sensitized our staff to this issue. Ideally, the interviewer would like to think his or her company is the only employer to which you've applied. But this hope dies quickly when you say something to the effect of "now what job is this again; I've applied for so many??" At best, it makes you look disorganized and at worst as if you are sending out hundreds of resumes desperately.

When You Miss the Contact
If the hiring staff leaves a message for you, return the call as soon as you can. As you are returning the call, remember that the recruiter may have called 10 other people that day about the same or a different position. When you return the call, give your full first name and last name and indicate that you are returning the recruiter's call regarding the xxx position.

If the message was left for you at 1 pm, and you didn't get it until you returned home at 7:30, call and leave a voicemail then. In this circumstance, voicemail is your friend. Again, give your full first name, last name, specific position and your contact information for the next business day. Caution! Be prepared in case the recruiter is still there at 7:30 and wants to do a phone interview right then!

When You're There for the Contact
The moment comes! The phone rings, and you are there to answer! Our standard recruiting rap goes something like this "Hi Aurora, this is Bridget calling from the New England Aquarium in Boston. I'm calling regarding our water quality position and would like to spend about 10 minutes on the phone with you asking some preliminary questions. Is this a good time to talk, or could I arrange a time to call you back?" Many interviewers like to make sure that interviewing now is convenient for the candidate. Most recruiting professionals will give candidates this courtesy, particularly when calling a candidate at her current place of employment.

Where there is less universal agreement among recruiters, however, is your answer. Many recruiters want you to talk to them when they call, and may not want to call again later. They may have only one or two clarifying questions that would take just a few minutes. Or they may want to do the full 10-60 minute phone interview with you, and they want to have you do it extemporaneously. Other recruiters want the candidate to feel composed and settled and have a quiet place to talk and think, and may not mind making a later appointment. If you are good on the phone and quick on your feet, you may want to go ahead with the interview. If you are in the middle of something, running out the door, or can't remember what the job is, it may be best to suggest an alternate time. A good way phrase is "I'm so happy you called. I have about 10 minutes before I have to run out the door. Is that enough time, or can I call you back later this afternoon?" This way, you are expressing your interest, being clear about the time you have, and suggesting a time to connect later.

While you are talking, make sure that your cordless phone battery is not about to run out, that your roommate is not about to run the vacuum, and that you will be able to concentrate. It may help to have your notes and resume in front of you, and to have a pen in your hand to take notes. If the entire hiring committee is on the other end in a conference call, you will want to write down each person's name/role down so that you can refer to it later.

It's important that you are clear about whether or not you can hear the interviewer clearly. Don't say, "can you speak up?" Do say "I'm having trouble hearing you. Can you hear me clearly?" The latter is slightly less confrontational and clarifies whether the connection between you is bad or if the problem is on the recruiter's end.

As with any interview, be prepared to ask questions at the end. You want to have the recruiter(s) hang up with a good impression of your interest in the company.

After the Call
Immediately after the call, write a short thank-you note. Correct phraseology for a phone interview would be something like "Thank you for spending time with me on the phone today talking about the enrollment management position. I enjoyed the conversation and have a better understanding of the job. I'd be interested in an on-site interview, and would welcome the opportunity to further discuss my candidacy."

For Individuals With Hearing Loss/Deafness
Phone interviews are not an impossibility. Many recruiters are quite accustomed to interviewing via relay service or TTY. Certainly, all companies should be prepared for and facile in communicating in these ways. Too often, however, they are not. For recruiters who are not, as unfair as it may be, the candidate may have to suggest alternatives to the speaking-and-hearing phone interview. A hard-of-hearing candidate may want to send a note to the recruiter before the interview indicating some basic TTY vocabulary. It is up to you whether or not you want to educate the recruiter about communicating via TTY or relay. In my opinion, the single most important vocabulary non-TTY users need to know is 揋A,?which is a way for both parties to indicate that they are finished with their answer/question/comment. GA means go ahead, as in go ahead it's your turn to talk.

In the computer age, another suggestion may be a real-time conversation via chat technology. Companies may have specific areas on their Web site where employees can meet in real time from different locations. Such a site would be an ideal venue in which candidates and recruiters can interview.

A Chance to Test the Waters
The phone interview is the second step in the process for many recruiters. During a phone interview, interviewers can check out wheter you are as good as you sound on paper, if you are articulate and if you'd be a good person to have join the firm. Most importantly, a phone interview serves a way to narrow down the pool to finalists and semifinalists. Few people get hired solely on the basis of a phone interview. The phone interview is a way for both the candidate and the interviewer to test the waters. So, relax, be professional, and be yourself! Remember, the best thing about phone interviews is that you don't have to wear a suit!

Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.

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