Phone Interview Tips: Don't Get Eliminated Before it Even Starts

 
 by Staci Tonkin Executive Administrator

by Staci Tonkin
Executive Administrator

Oh, the dreaded phone interview.  Why is it so hard to convey who we are over the phone to a stranger?  For me, it’s simple – if I can’t see your body language and reactions to what I am saying, I have no idea if I am on the right track.  No way to gauge how I am doing………it can be complete torture!  

DISCLAIMER

In my previous company, I was the supervisor of a department.  As a result, I was responsible for determining who we would hire.  Here at Evia, I manage our hiring process and assist with all phone interviews we conduct. 

While I do not necessarily consider myself an expert or an interview coach, I do know what has gotten candidates on the fast track to the ‘NO’ pile.

WHY A PHONE INTERVIEW? 

Most companies try to schedule a phone interview or phone screening as a quick way to do an initial evaluation of a candidate and determine whether they will be worth the hiring team’s time to interview.   Factors I find are the quickest way to determine if a candidate meets a company’s needs:

·       Do they have the appropriate experience needed for the position?

·       Particularly for client facing roles – How this person will sound and approach your clients?

·       Will they be a good culture fit?

·       Are their salary expectations in line with what your company is willing to offer?

At this stage in the process, this is all we really need to know.  Do you know what you are talking about, do you sound professional and put together, do I want to spend 8 hours/5 days a week with you, and are you in our budget.

THE DOS AND DON’TS

There are quick ways you can rocket to the top of the ‘NO’ pile.  Below is a list of DO’s and DON’Ts that can make or break your status within the first few minutes of the phone interview.

Here’s an easy one to start out…………   

DON’T: Forget what position you applied for, or who the company is.  Sounds simple enough, right? You would not believe how many times I have heard, “I don’t remember applying” or “I can’t recall what position this is for”.

o   DO: Know the company and position you are interviewing for.  Period.  It’s seriously the easiest thing you can do in preparation for the call.

 

DON’T: Over explain your answers.  If the interviewer doesn’t even remember what the question was, you’ve been talking too long and they are no longer interested.  In fact, they probably aren’t even listening anymore, just waiting for you to finish so they can move on.  And, If you don’t even remember what the question was, we have a problem.  

o   DO: Answer the question, succinctly and with confidence.  Use one example to explain your answer; we do not need multiple examples that spans across different positions and decades.  Keep it relevant and recent.

 

DON’T: Over-hype yourself.  I hate to break it to you, but we can tell it’s hype.  My favorite response to “What do you consider your strengths to be?” was “Gee, what am I not good at!?  That’s a tough one.”   And then they literally couldn’t give an answer.  Well, you now aren’t good at interviewing, so there you go.  And……….resume in the NO pile.

o   DO: Know your strengths, but also be humble enough to recognize you have weaknesses. 

 

DON’T: Bring up conflict you had with your manager or other team members.  The only time it’s okay to do so is if there is a question specifically asking you to describe a time when you had a conflict or something of that nature.

o   DO: Figure out a way to explain things without throwing anyone under the bus.   You really just come across as a complainer, and someone who can’t take accountability for their own part of things.

 

DON’T: Speak to something you do not know or act like you have experience that you do not.

o   DO: Know that it’s okay to say, “I don’t have experience with that specific thing.”  Your honesty is appreciated.  In any role, there are things that are easy to teach, and there’s a good chance that we are okay with the fact that you don’t know how to do something that is specific to our company.  For the most part, what matters is that you have done something comparable, or at least understand what is involved.

 

DON’T: Give a large range for your desired salary.  Saying “anywhere between $50,000-$100,000” isn’t really an answer.  This causes me to question your experience level and if you even know what planet you are on.

o   DO: Know what salary you need to live the life you are living.  If you prefer, just give your current/previous salary.  Or go slightly higher than that.  Most people are looking for an increase with a new job, and the interviewer knows that.   Be confident in your worth – but be realistic too.  Do your research on what the average pay is for that position in your area.

 

Of course, none of this will guarantee you make it pass the phone interview round.  However, it certainly can make sure you don’t get tossed to the side prematurely.  Do what you want, say what you want…….just be careful you don’t take yourself out of the running before the race even starts.