Once your resume is out there, the next step in the hiring process is usually a phone interview with a recruiter. Someone who is an intermediary between you and a hiring manager interview. These interviews, done on the phone, require different approaches to answering the interview questions than a face to face interview.
Here are five tips to help answer those phone interview questions.
1. Print out a copy of your resume
After you send out twenty or thirty resumes over a couple of weeks, you start to not remember exactly what’s on the resume. But the recruiter will be asking questions about your experience and job skills from your resume, so it is best to have that out so you can follow along.
In addition, your resume should have good work results listed with your work experience (“improved cycle time by 20%, resulting in $100K savings to the department). These items will trigger explanations of how you achieved the results to the recruiter. If there is a result on a resume, you need the ability to describe how it was achieved.
2. Print out a copy of the job description
You are trying to match your job skills with as many as possible on the job description. Sometimes, when job titles don’t match job functions, for example, it is necessary to tie several positions on your resume to specific job skills needed in the job description. So if the job description requires “project management experience,” you can address that job requirement using your resume and accomplishments even though your job title wasn’t “project manager.”
The more job requirements you match up with on the job description, the better your chances of moving on. So having the job description in front of you will remind you to cover specific job skills that match the needs of the job.
3. Your interviewer is trying to match broad categories, not specifics
This is somewhat of a trick to explain and doesn’t always apply to every phone interview.
Basically, the person doing the phone interview is evaluating your ability to do the job by asking you about your job skills. The person, most likely, doesn’t have your work down cold like you do. They can’t get into the weeds like you can about a particular job skill; they are looking to do a check mark by a job skill to determine if you have a qualification needed.
There is a qualitative difference between saying that you can do “workforce management by optimizing ‘X’ tool getting a 5% reduction in staff with excellent customer satisfaction” and offering up the four different theories of workforce management and discussing how the tool implements each of them. (I have been guilty of the second type of answer, to my detriment, on phone interviews…)
If the person isn’t as skilled as you in a particular area, you’ll lose them. Worse, they will think you can’t communicate complex issues in ways that others will understand them and rate you lower on the interview!
So your answer has to be framed as: have the job skill, here is where it was or is used, and here are the results. Interviewer: Check mark.
Now, there are a lot of technical positions where a technical person will interview you and expect that you will get into the weeds for your answers. Your expertise in the job skill, not just having the job skill, is what they are trying to determine.
So you need to know if this is a “screening” interview where the person doing the interviewing isn’t an expert in your field, or if it is a “technical” interview where the person is an expert on your subject. If you need to, ask how much the person knows about your area and adjust the communication level to match.
4. During the phone interview, stand up and walk around
You will be more alert, release tension, and be more engaged in the interview. And the whole “smile because it comes across on the phone” advice you see? Yeah, it does.
5. Be ever so leery of using a cell phone for an interview
Cell phones are getting much better. Drops are less. But there is simply no percentage in taking a chance on an interview with a lousy cell connection — the technology reflects on your job skills. Which is ridiculous, of course — but true anyway.
I never use a cell phone for interviews — and I have a fabulous cell phone with no issues — whether they be for a job or for a media interview. At home, I have a landline phone that uses the absolute cheapest plan my phone company offers. I don’t even have the phone plugged in until an hour before the interview so I don’t need to worry about idiots calling me.
But the thing about landline phones is that you won’t have cell phone issues that can kill your interview.
Bonus tip: focus on your job skills matching the job description
The sole purpose of a phone interview is to move on to the next step in the company’s hiring process. Most phone interviews, because they are screening interviews, are focused on the first question of all interview questions have only three answers: can you do the job?
The phone interview matches as many skills you have to the job description for the position. And while there may be some soft skills questions, the person doing the interview won’t be the one that has to put up working with you every day. Their job is to say yes or no on whether or not you can do the job and pass you along to the hiring manager. Or not.
What was your toughest phone interview question?