16 tips to ace that inevitable phone interview.
As the growth of Digital Media, AdTech, and MarTech continues at its meteoric rate, hiring managers, recruiters and human resources professionals are streamlining so many first meetings by starting with phone interviews. Some are using Skype and other video services as well, but this article is geared toward those of you who will not have the benefit of being seen when you speak.
How a phone interview is conducted varies based on who is conducting the interview and the type of job in question. Human Resources’ interviews will likely explore basic qualifications, job transitions, how you handled certain situations and if you are a cultural fit.
Hiring managers, on the other hand, will delve deeper into results, performance, more demanding situational questions, and challenges faced.
Are you going after a digital media sales position? Business Development? Digital Marketing? Client Services? Something in Ad Tech or Marketing Technology? How do you think you should come across during the call, given the job for which you’re interviewing?
You will most definitely want to leave an impression that you are smart, strategic, a team player, energized about the company and job, no matter the opportunity. But you’ll also want to leave “job-specific” impressions consistent with the position. For instance, if you’re interviewing for a sales position, you should treat the phone interview like a sales call. If you are interviewing for an analytical position, pose questions or make statements that highlight your analytical abilities.
Now, down to specifics, here are the top 16 tips on how to be successful with a phone interview:
1. Phone interviews are no different than in-person interviews when it comes to research. Definitely research the company as much as possible prior to the call – their website, articles online, Crunchbase, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. profiles.
2. Make sure the call is scheduled. Set a specific date and time, and ask for a copy of the job description if you don’t already have it. [If there is no written job description, ask for a few bullet points on the job’s responsibilities and qualifications. Study this description, and look on LinkedIn at people doing similar jobs and what backgrounds they have.]
You do not want to get caught off guard by a spontaneous call. At the time of the call, have all your paperwork handy – your resume, cover letter, the job description, name and title of important company personnel (especially the person you’re speaking with), your research on the company, etc. Have a pen and paper handy for note-taking.
3. Know your audience – know who is doing the interviewing. Is it Human Resources? The hiring manager? Whoever it is, look them up on the web, especially:
- Media Recruiting Group LinkedIn
- Media Recruiting Group Twitter
- Media Recruiting Group Facebook
- Media Recruiting Group Blog
Use the information gathered to get a sense of the interviewer’s background, what they have written, their successes, their prior experience, and to find common ground. Follow them on Twitter, “like” their Facebook page, comment on their blog, Link-in with them.
4. Practice makes perfect. Ask a friend or colleague to conduct a mock interview and record it so you can see how you sound over the phone. You’ll be able to hear your pauses, “ums”, “uhs” and “okays”. Also, practice answers to those typical questions you’ll be asked (tell me about yourself, what interests you about this job, why do you want to leave your current job, what salary range are you seeking, etc.).
5. Some professionals have been known to think less of the interview if it is with Human Resources versus the hiring manager. That is a big mistake. The company has its HR professionals performing the phone interview as a screen, and they will advance candidates they think are appropriate. Your demeanor towards them reaches through the phone. Be in your top form.
6. Stand up during the call. Standing increases your level of alertness and promotes a stronger engagement level. Also, consider dressing up a bit as well, to create more of the feeling you’d have if you were being interviewed in person. Don’t do the phone interviews in your PJ’s.
7. Conduct the phone interview in a quiet place with no chance of distraction or interruption, with the door closed. Have it be an office, or as close to an office as possible to simulate the experience that you are “at work”. If you must have the phone interview take place at home, make sure the kids are not home and pets are out of earshot.
8. Unless you’re sure your cell phone service is going to be perfect, consider using a landline rather than your cell phone to avoid a dropped call or static on the line. Turn call-waiting off so your call isn’t interrupted.
9. Be prepared with examples of situations where you made a big difference with a sale, campaign, deal, proposal, strategy, operations challenge, etc. (whatever is appropriate for your background). You don’t want to be caught off guard if a question is asked that seeks to measure your ability. For each such example, write and be prepared to discuss a) the situation/problem, b) the action steps you took to solve it, and c) the outcome.
10. Be prepared with 3 positive characteristics that describe you (be prepared for the strengths and weaknesses question).
11. Be prepared with intelligent questions to ask your interviewer. Use current events pertaining to the company, their competitors or their industry. Remember, that the purpose of asking questions at this stage of the process is to further sell yourself. Some of the more challenging/probing questions can come later after the company knows they want you. Other suggestions include:
- What qualities are you looking for in the person you hire to join this company? (Use their answer to sell yourself.)
- I like being challenged. What do you view as the most challenging parts of this job?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- Is there anything else can I tell you about my qualifications?
- Could I schedule an in-person interview at your convenience?
- Would you like a list of references?
- When can I expect to hear from you about the next steps?
- Are there any other questions I can answer for you?
12. Think about your interview from the hiring manager’s perspective. Understanding their motives, how you are seen from their perspective, and the underlying business objectives your role will fill can be vital for putting your best foot forward. Remember, you do not have the benefit of body language to help convey your message, so words and how you frame them really matter. Check out our tips for hiring digital media salespeople. Not in sales? These principles can be applied beyond sales roles.
13. During the phone interview, clearly, show your excitement about both the company and the job. You may have to notch it up a bit on a phone interview because they cannot see you and you can’t use eye contact and body language to show your interest. Also:
- Don’t smoke, chew gum, or eat.
- Try not to drink but keep a glass of water handy in case your mouth gets dry (don’t let them hear the ‘gulp’).
- Smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
- Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
- Take your time – it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.
- Brevity – give relatively short answers. You want to say enough to sell yourself, but also come across as a good listener and someone who does not talk too much. Don’t interrupt the interviewer.
14. Have an answer to the question: “What are you looking to make compensation-wise in your next role?” It is against the law in many cities for potential employers to ask you your current compensation. Think of what would be a decent jump in base, and give a range. If you are making $80k + 15k bonus = $95k total, you could say, “I currently have a base and bonus structure, and I’m looking for something in the $_________range + bonus for a total in the $_____ range.” If you are using a recruiter, get guidance from them as they will know the range. If not, then look to see what you’d want in a next step that is meaningful and commensurate with the job, but not so far from where you are now that the company will think you are asking for more than your experience and the job would dictate.
15. After the call, before getting off the phone, thank the interviewer. Once complete, jot down notes pertaining to how you answered certain questions, any new information you learned about the job or the company, any insights that will help you in the next round of interviews.
16. Email a “thank you” note (yes, thank you notes still matter) asking to meet in person and reinforcing your strong interest in the job (ref: Thank You note tips. Use your notes to refer to something that was discussed during the call.
Preparation will allow you to enjoy the call, be yourself, come across in a confident manner, and accomplish what you set out to do – get an in-person meeting.