Telephone Interviews

Employers conduct telephone interviews for one of four reasons:

  1. It is easier and less expensive than in-person interviews.
  2. The employer is excited about your resume and wants to move quickly.
  3. The employer is undecided about your skills or your skills compared to other candidates or their ability to satisfy your needs.
  4. The employer is uncomfortable making decisions or conducting in-person interviews. (This is especially true of hiring managers who have not had training as interviewers.)

Telephone interviews are particularly challenging because they are a highly concentrated form of communication. Research has shown that with in-person interviews communication is 55% Physical (body language, gestures, attire, physical characteristics) only 7% Verbal (what you are actually saying) and 38% Emotional (your feelings and inflections and the reactions of the listener). With telephone interviews you lose that Physical communication leaving only the 45% Verbal and Emotional communication as the entire basis for forming an opinion whether to proceed to the next step.

Before your telephone interview you need to prepare and practice:

  1. Concise statements about your present and other most recent jobs. Prepare to give the interviewer a mental image of where your job appeared in the organizational chart. Describe your major tasks or goals and how you went about doing them, and what your results were. The interviewer wants to know if you understand the big picture, how well you communicate, and if you have any value-added knowledge or skills.
  2. An answer to "Why are you looking?" What it is about your job that no longer satisfies you. If you were the victim of a layoff, how large it was and why you were targeted. If you were terminated, give references of peers and other past employees who will support your version.
  3. Know what you are looking for in a new opportunity. This might include job title (rank), job content, company culture, salary expectations, willingness to commute or relocate. Let the interviewer know what is important to you so they can address your needs.

If the interviewer contacts you at a time when you cannot talk freely and without distractions then just make a specific appointment to talk later. A poor telephone interview that is rushed, done in clipped conversation and hushed tones, or drowned on staticky cell phones is rarely successful. If possible stand up (your voice projects better), use your normal hand gestures (your inflections will be better understood) and smile (it will affect your tone).

An Advanced Approach

The power technique for telephone interviews is to take control. Ask the interviewer to "tell me about the job so I can tell you how I can help you." Then relate how you have faced those same challenges previously, what you did to overcome them, and what were the results. At the conclusion of the interview, suggest dates for an in-person meeting and create a sense of urgency.

From this approach the interviewer will conclude you are a take charge, no-nonsense person who has good listening skills. You are a problem solver with the right set of experience and proven accomplishments. You are organized and others crave your time