The phone interview has become a basic and expected precursor to the in-person or virtual interview. It is the interview in which employers get the chance to know you a little bit better before determining if they’d like to spend even more time and resources getting to know you, thereby determining whether or not they’d like you on their team. In other words, it’s pretty critical! I remember prior to my first phone interview for a real job, talking to my current mentor about it and saying that I didn’t feel like it would be that big of a deal. That I was headed back to my dorm at that moment to sit in my desk chair and make time for it before starting in on my homework for the night. The way he looked at me with concern and the way I felt after the interview cemented the reality that, yeah, it actually is a pretty big deal.
So why don’t we adequately prepare for it like we should? Why don’t we treat it like the important step in the interview process that it is; the step that if you make or break it, determines whether you get a seat at their table or whether your application is swiftly withdrawn from the running? Here are some crucial forgotten rules of the phone interview to take seriously in order to help yourself take the phone interview seriously. And win an in-person interview.
1. Find a place of privacy and quiet. It’s not always convenient when you are a student or current employee trying to find the least distracting place during the 8 to 5 day that you can to focus on and successfully complete a phone interview. Your dorm room or apartment can even be a struggle if you have roommate(s) or a cluttered space. If you can, ask your roommates to leave for a little while so you can prepare for and do the phone interview in complete quiet. Turn off any noise, put away the pets, and get to a room or part of the room that is as secluded, silent, and focused as possible. If you are on campus, check with your career services to see if they have a secluded room that you could reserve to complete your phone interview.
If you’re a current employee at work during the time of your phone interview, you face a more unique challenge. Your current employer may not even know you are job searching. In this scenario, treat the phone interview like you would a regular interview. Ask if you can leave early, show up late, or set some time aside for an “appointment.” Try to go home during this time if you can for ultimate privacy. If not, use your resources to leave work and find a place a place of privacy. This might unfortunately mean sitting in your car in a neighboring parking lot. Don’t worry, it’s been done! Try sitting in the passenger or back seat–it might help you feel like you’re not just sitting in your car.
Overall, background noise is distracting to both parties in a phone interview. You can’t professionally conduct yourself when you’re staring at a messy room, and your interviewer won’t think positively of you if they hear someone talking loudly in the background. Privacy and silence are key to a successful phone interview free from distraction.
2. Treat it professionally. The phone interview is obviously not visual. Your interviewer won’t know if you are in your pajamas or in jeans. They also won’t know if you have loud posters on the wall or an unmade bed behind you. But you will. And you may not get to the state of mind you need to be in for a professional phone interview if you’re sitting that way. It may sound ridiculous, but straighten up the room to help you focus. Put on a business casual (or even business professional) outfit. Do your hair and makeup. Treating a phone interview professionally will make you conduct yourself more professionally and give it the added importance that it has.
3. Spend some time on it. Your phone interview will probably only last about 10 to 15 minutes. But don’t think that’s all the time you have to set aside for it. Just like a career fair or an in-person interview, the phone interview requires research and prep work beforehand. Get online and learn what you can about the company. Take notes. Gather information in the news or on social media about the organization. Learn enough information to form some impressive questions for your interviewer (don’t you dare ask them to tell you more about what they do). The day of, spend no less than 30 minutes prior to the interview gearing up for it (this could include doing more research, dressing professionally, and/or cleaning up your space). Putting your own time and effort into the phone interview will show itself when you speak with your interviewer. They should be able to tell that you’ve come prepared, polished, and eager to learn more.
So yeah, the phone interview is a pretty big deal. If your resume was good enough to get you there in the first place, show your interviewer in this extremely important step that you’re more than good enough to earn an in-person interview and that you are the right person for the job.
Did your interviewer skip the phone interview and go right for video? Check out these expert tips for conducting yourself in a virtual interview.