When A Recruiter Calls, Part 2: Surviving The 10-Minute Phone Interview

– Posted in: career coaching, interviewing

This post on optimizing your next phone interview was originally published in my career column on Money.com and Time.com. This is the unedited version:

I have written about how to maximize that unexpected call from a recruiter and put yourself in the best light, regardless of whether or not you’re actively looking. However, sometimes you are expecting the call. Phone interviews are increasingly more common as a first step in the hiring process because they’re more expedient for both candidate and employer. As a recruiter, I would often ask for a brief call to discuss the resume, and from that short interaction then determine who I would invite for a longer, in-person interview. Phone interviews therefore are your first hurdle to overcome to become a contender for that next job. Here are 4 ways to maximize your next phone interview:

You only have 20% of your power – choose wisely

In a live interview, you have your presence, your hand gestures, your smile, eye contact and all those non-verbal cues to establish credibility and develop rapport. Communication is 80% or more about these non-verbals. But on a phone call, all of this is taken away, and you are left with the words you choose, the pace you speak, the inflections you give, and the clarity of your articulation. It is that much more important that you focus on these verbal communication skills as you prepare for the interview.

Remember it’s a conversation – let the other person in.

In a live interview, you can see you need to wrap up your answer if the interviewer has lost interest and he eyes are glazing over, he glances at his watch, he leans forward to interrupt you and move on. In a phone interview, you won’t get any such clues. You will need to stop talking in order to ensure that your interviewer can get in a word and ask the next question. This ensures you’re covering everything the interviewer needs to move you to the next round.

You know this is coming – prepare for the obvious

Remember that the phone interview is about getting to the next interview. No one gets hired on the strength of the phone interview so you’re not trying to close the deal right away. You’re trying to establish that you are strong potential match for the job at hand. Therefore, plan what you will say based on how it matches to this job. When you give an overview of what you’re doing, highlight where your current skills and expertise overlap with the job requirements. When you talk about why you would consider leaving, mention things that this new job offers, thereby confirming your interest in this very job.

Don’t make this your first – do a practice run

Leave a message for yourself with an interview response – talk about yourself or explain why you’re interested in the job. Do you have good phone communication skills? Do you sound enthusiastic? Do you speak clearly? Do you have the right volume — not too loud, not too soft? Do you speak at a good pace? Are you concise? Don’t just wing a phone interview. Practice in advance.

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