Ace your phone interview
Phone interviews have predominantly become the first stage of the selection process in all fields. The job market is not an exception in this case. There are various reasons why organizations and companies follow the policy of having a phone interview before they invite candidates in the flesh to their organizations. In this highly competitive world, a job interview marks the highest level of competition as the race for better opportunities never ends. The selection ratio in such selection processes will be very less, and it becomes imperative for the hiring officials to narrow down the number of candidates who have applied for the job position. This is where phone interviews become crucial and relevant.
In phone interviews, even though it’s not a thumb rule, the hiring officials usually ask not-so-specific questions aimed at getting to know the candidate more and to have a very superficial idea about their aspirations of them. Acing the phone interview is crucial because all your interview preparation can only be put to use if you get through this phone interview process. Hence, it is wise to give adequate importance to this selection process and not to underestimate it with overconfidence. In other words, as a candidate, you do not want to lose out in the first phase itself due to a lack of preparation and seriousness. This opens the door for a wide range of things regarding phone interviews that job seekers must know. This includes the prerequisites for your phone interview, tips to be applied for a phone interview, the possible questions and their intentions, along with ‘what not to do in a phone interview’. In this article, we explore all this in-depth to help you ace the phone interview and complete the selection process in flying colors.
Prerequisites for your phone interview
❖ Background preparation
This prerequisite for your phone interview is just like any other selection process where you are expected to do a bit of background research about the company, its core values, and work culture. This will equip you to give a direct answer to direct questions which test your knowledge of the company and the job position you have applied for.
After basic research, you can George down expected questions and your answers for the same. This will become handy during a phone interview and help you to ace the interview.
❖ Comfortable surroundings
In certain situations, it has been observed by many candidates that the phone interview may, in fact, become more stressful and tiresome than the live ones. This makes it necessary that you deliberately make the surroundings suitable and comfortable for a smooth phone interview.
The simple act of having a glass of water will give you positive results. According to the situation surrounding you, it is better to have a customized preparation strategy that ensures least distraction and perfect comfort. You may ensure that keyboard click sounds are off, and you don’t have to run in between for an extra pen or an additional sheet of paper.
❖ Confirm the credentials
It is very important that you confirm the essential credentials for the scheduled phone interview. This is inclusive of the time at which the phone interview takes place and the exact designation and name of the person whom you are talking to. In addition to this, you also need to ensure that you have given the correct contact number and you are waiting for the call in the same number, in case if you have more than one contact number.
❖ Practice sessions
There may be a number of questions that are very much expected in a phone interview. Preparation for the same is complete only if you have done ample practice sessions. Inadequate practice indicates and under preparation which may cost you dearly during the actual interview.
Apart from preparing answers for the expected questions, it is important that you decide on the way it is to be conveyed, keeping in mind the basic objective of standing apart from other candidates. It is advised that you use the practice sessions to find a creative way of answering presentations that will impress the hiring official.
❖ Preparing answers to salary expectations
Since phone interviews are considered as an initial screening process aimed at reducing the number of candidates for the real interview, the question on salary may pop up. You really don’t want to lose out here because you have expressed the higher expectation from your end.
You have to play smart not to bring in the topic yourself. Two things are of importance here. Firstly, you have to do a bit of research about the market standard salary for a similar job position in the same industry. This should be considered while you prepare a salary expectation for yourself. Secondly, you have to present the idea that you are flexible regarding this if you are really interested in the job position.
❖ The essential cheat sheet
In situations like this, no job seeker should test the strength of their memory. It is not wise to believe that you remember all the information necessary for the job interview. The apt way out in this situation is to have a cheat sheet containing all the necessary information that may be used for the phone interview.
This cheat sheet can be prepared in bullet train so as to avoid any tendency to read it out the exact same manner you have written it. This one-page document is the best solution to reduce the stress during a phone interview and bring you a bundle of confidence.
❖ Handy documents
Similar to the cheat sheet, it is important that you have all the relevant documents handy because most interviewers prepare questions based on the documents you submitted. Hence, it doesn’t look great if you cannot trace what they are talking about. Such documents include your resume, list of references, and certifications.
❖ Handy tools and gadgets
Another set of tools and gadgets which you really don’t want to miss out on during a phone interview are as follows. Headphones or earphones are important, and it is advised to have one for a phone interview. This gives you the opportunity to move around to be more confident along with the clarity of voice. Similarly, it is better to have a charger or a power bank around as a backup.
Water bottles, notepads, pens, or pencils are to be treated as essential requirements for a phone interview.
❖ Dress and confidence
It is wrong to assume that your dress code plays a crucial role only in in-person interviews. In reality, it is not the case. Dress plays a decisive role in determining your comfort level and confidence. This does not indicate that the desired dress code needs to be a professional one. The choice has to be made, keeping in mind the level of confidence that it offers. This means that there is absolutely no thumb rule here, and the choice is all on the job seeker.
❖ No to distractions
The selection of location for the phone interview has to be done with utmost caution. It is important that you cross-check the location and its characteristics well in advance so that all sorts of distractions can be eliminated. The location has to be a comfortable, convenient, and quiet one.
❖ Worst-case scenarios preparation
The idea of preparing well in advance is to avoid any sort of worst-case scenario. But the preparation is completed only when you put ample thought into worst-case scenarios and the possible response for the same. Such a situation arises when you lose the stream of thoughts, forget things or when your phone dies.
The best way to deal with such situations is to prepare a checklist well in advance and ensure that all things are taken care of hours before the interview. Having all essentials in immediate reach to you can take your confidence level to another level altogether.
❖ Test run
On top of all the prerequisites mentioned above, it is advised that you take a test run taking into consideration all the factors possible. This may include your response to worst-case scenarios and answers to the much-expected questions. Additionally, you can pull off a test phone interview with the help of your friend or a family member. This is the best way to ensure that your voice is clear and your earphones and headsets are in proper condition.
Tips to be applied in a phone interview
❏ A good start is a job half done.
A good start to the phone interview from your side sets the tone of the interview that follows. You have to be on time and pick up the phone in no time. Apart from this, it is crucial that you start off the conversation with the best introduction possible. Unlike in-person interviews, you really don’t have too much time to set the tone and express yourself. There is a risk involved in the phone interview that the interviewer can only judge based on the voice and the way you talk. The central pillars here are quick and clear responses.
In other words, a confused, slow, and unclear response will force the hiring official to judge your professional and communication skills.
❏ Employ phone manners
Before getting into the core of the phone interview, you may have to employ a few manners, which is essential from a professional point of view. You may take a step to ask them about their day and wish them accordingly. On top of that, you can put in small action talk to keep the positive environment active.
Before the hiring official asks you specific questions, you may have to ask them if your voice is clear and if there is any sort of induction in the background. Invariably, you have to apologize and address the issue if there is anything. Implement the standard practice of muting yourself when you are not talking, and the background noise cannot be corrected.
❏ Slow down
There is one issue associated with the phone interview, which is not seen during in-person interviews. There are high chances that there exist awkward silences and overlapping conversations. Always keep in mind these are natural, and there is nothing to be scared of.
A pro tip in this situation is to pause for a second or two before answering. This is the only way in which you can ensure that the hiring official has stopped. Also, there is nothing wrong with apologizing and asking them to repeat questions. It is always better to have a slow conversation than to have a wrong conversation.
Interruptions can be deliberate from their side. This happens in situations where they want to shift the focus of the interview to some other topic or also in cases where they have technical difficulties. In any such situation, it is better that you pause for some time and let them finish talking.
❏ Express your emotions
Unlike in personal interviews, an interview candidate needs to put in extra effort to sound energetic and enthusiastic. This is because there is no way the hiring official can see your face. It is imperative that enough enthusiasm is shown by you when you talk about the job position, your work experience, and your aspirations about the company.
In order to convey your emotions, it is advised that you use appropriate gestures and keep a smiling face throughout the conversation. This automatically reflects in your voice and sends a message positive to your intention. The trap here is to strike a perfect balance between doing this and being sounding fake. Expressing your passion is not equal to sounding animated. Implement the mantra of practice and find the best way out for yourself.
Furthermore, do not confuse between being passionate and talking fast. The only intention in front of you is to convey your thoughts with clarity, and the fast-talking I will not serve the purpose. Clarity and self-awareness about your own thoughts and words will do the business here.
❏ Listen carefully
As mentioned before, it is OK to request the interviewer to repeat questions, but it shouldn’t be because you didn’t listen carefully. That may annoy the hiring official.
It is important that you put enough practice into active listening and reply to them using fillers like “right,” “yes,” and “hmm.” This will help evolve a sort of interest for the hiring official to continue the conversation as planned.
❏ Summarise the call
This part comes right after the phone interview. It is advised that you may jot down the important points and major conversations you had with the hiring official during the phone interview. This is beneficial in two ways. You can make use of this note to better prepare yourself for similar interviews in the future. Secondly, this will help as a guide for your thank you note.
❏ Essential ‘Thank You’ note.
Sending a thank you note to the hiring official is crucial, and the timing of it is also important. It is suggested that you send a thank-you note right after the call. There are certain things that you should keep in mind while drafting a thank you note for a thank you email.
You have to explicitly thank them for the time and resources they have invested in talking to you, reiterate your passion for the job position and your excitement to work for the company, along with the important topics you have covered during the phone interview. It is vital that you keep it super short, concise, and on point.
Questions and intentions behind
1. “How did you find this job position?”
This question can be classified as a sure one in a phone interview. There may be different reasons why hiring officials ask this question to you. Knowing these reasons is important in framing your answers and presenting them. They may like to extract the information if you found the job position through any of your personal contacts. Also, the company will be curious to know so as to decide on various aspects of their marketing.
Keeping in mind these factors, you can craft the best answer for yourself.
2. “Tell me more about yourself.”
This classic question during any interview needs special attention and well preparation. In fact, the actual intention behind this question is to find how the job seeker identifies this particular job position as the best fit for him or her. The best answer in the situation is one that incorporates your present situation, your past, and your aspirations linking it to the needs and requirements of the job position by the company. Since this question can be expected in most cases, there shouldn’t be any deviation from preparing an answer perfectly.
3. “What do you know about this organization?” / “What do you know about our work culture?”
This question is put in place to explore if the job seeker has done enough research about the company, its values, and its culture. In indirect means, this question helps the hiring official to judge your passion, interest, and enthusiasm.
At any point, you are not expected to rephrase what is said on the company website. Rather, the focus should be on those factors which will help you to stand apart from other candidates who give similar answers. Ideally, you can wisely choose a few attributes of the company which synchronise perfectly with your experience and the job position you have applied for.
4. “Why did you plan to shift your job now?” / “Tell me about the job you just quit”
The primary motive behind this question asked by a hiring official is that it hints directly towards your work ethics and culture. Hence, it becomes relatively easy for them to judge you from a comparative point of view.
It will be highly risky if you fake any reason behind your job resignation. It is always advised that you be honest with yourself but present it in a way that makes it easy for both you and the hiring official. No inferiority complex should rule your mind when it comes to your previous job. One thing you can do in this situation is to channelize your reasons in a positive way giving the impression that you will correct them in future roles.
5. “Explain to me the responsibilities you handled just now.”
This question contextualizes your experiences and the skill set you possess. Aimed at narrowing down the competition for the job position, this question explores both communication skills and your confidence. Your answer may revolve around the idea that you are confident in contributing positively towards the company’s goals as well as on a daily basis.
6. “What are your expectations in the new role?”
Answers to this question can be crafted, keeping in mind both your goals and the requirements of the job position you have applied for. The level of alignment between these two will be decisive in the decision taken by the hiring official. Background research plays a crucial role here.
Alongside, as a job seeker, you really don’t know for how long they are hiring you. Even though you possess enough skill set to make yourself qualified for the job position, they may go for a candidate whose goals synchronise with the company’s goals. Hence, you should craft your answer with utmost care.
7. “Tell me about the factors that attracted you to our organization”
The answer to this question is also based on the background resource you do about the organization. A confused and arbitrary answer to this question will give a bad impression that you are not invested enough to better yourself. Try to include the learning opportunities, collaborative opportunities, and other interests that brought you closer to this job position.
8. “What are your salary expectations?”
The main intention behind the hiring officials asking this question is to eliminate those candidates who have higher expectations for a salary that is beyond their budget. In this situation, you have to decide for yourself whether you want to present yourself as a candidate flexible for negotiations. This decision depends on whether you actually wish for something beyond the salary.
The best way out of the situation is to do an analysis to find out the industry-standard salary range for a similar job position considering your experience. This will increase your chances of getting selected for the next round of the selection process.
9. “What are your expectations about the team?”
This is another important elimination question as no company is willing to risk its success for a bad employee-manager relationship. Your perfect answer can include your previous relationships with managers and the good experiences from it.
10. “Tell me about your willingness to relocate for the job, if needed.”
This question is technical and logistic. Hiring officials will be really interested in finding out those candidates who are ready to give up the offer for logistic reasons. In any case, the manager will be willing to narrow down those candidates to the final selection process. There is no option for you, but to be honest but you can leave an impression that you are flexible enough.
11. “Do you wish to know anything more?” / “Do you have any queries?”
This question is an acknowledgment that the interview is a conversation. The number and value of the questions you ask have got the potential to impress the hiring official to help you to the next level of a selection process.
It is always advised that you customize your questions after thorough preparation taking into consideration the nature of the job position offered. Always remember that the last impression is the long-lasting impression.
Even though it is understood that a phone interview is a preliminary step in the selection process, it is crucial that you prepare perfectly as the competition will be very high. The central idea that should be kept in your mind is that you are negotiating for your position in an in-person interview. Alongside, you should put enough effort in jotting down the content of the interview to put it to effective use in a thank you email. Like any other professional conversation, there is much hype into the balance you strike between perfect communication and overdone communication. The higher your investment in practice, the higher your returns will be.