Telephone interview tips

Q: I recently was asked by an employer to participate in a telephone interview for a job. I have never done a telephone interview. What should I expect? What should I do?

A: I am so glad that you asked. I just completed about 20 telephone interviews for several clients. Telephone interviews are as important as in-person interviews. I can share many pieces of advice (especially after this week!):

1. Be prepared. It sounds so simple. But apparently it is not. Don’t schedule a telephone interview while you are picking up your dry cleaning, mowing your lawn or babysitting your neighbor’s toddler. These background distractions impact your ability (and my ability!) to focus and concentrate. I had one candidate this week call me while she was food shopping. Don’t make this mistake. I don’t want to hear the guy from the deli asking if your turkey is sliced thin enough. This call deserves your full attention.


2. Be prepared. Yes, again. Be prepared. Know the company. Research the company before the call. Again, it sounds so simple. I have heard several times from candidates “Now what company is this call about? I sent so many resumes out that I can’t keep track.” Personally, I really don’t care about how many resumes you sent out. I care about presenting the best possible candidates to my clients. I don’t want to talk to candidates who haven’t visited the client’s website and who often lack a basic understanding of what my client does on a day-to-day basis. This is your job as a candidate. I can fill in some of the blanks but do your homework before our call!

3. Be prepared. Yes, sorry again… Have your resume in front of you. I have taken the time to review and print your resume in preparation for our call. You should have a copy in front of you during our call. I will be asking you about it! You should not have to say, “Gee, let me print that out… can you give me a minute?” Or “I didn’t know I would need a copy of my resume for the call.” Hmm… interesting. What did you think we would be talking about?


4. Be prepared. I am getting redundant, aren’t I? Well, this time I mean be prepared to take my call at our pre-scheduled time. Translation — be on time, be punctual, be ready to talk at our pre-scheduled time.

5. Follow up. If I ask you to call me back during the first half of the following week, please do. If you don’t follow up with me, it demonstrates lack of interest. If I ask you to email me 3-5 references, that means…. email me 3-5 references. If I ask you, which I frequently do, to stick close to your email so we can efficiently schedule an in-person interview, then check your email regularly over the next few days.

The interview process starts far before you walk into a company for an in-person interview. The preparation is so very important. Do your homework. Demonstrate commitment. Show that you can add value.  Finally, remember to prepare a list of accomplishments to share with your interviewer.  You want to convey that you can add value if offered a new role. 

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