Telephone Interview Preparation Guidelines

The old adage that “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is just as true for telephone interviews as it is for face-to-face.  For that reason, being well-prepared and attentive to the details of the telephone interview process will put you ahead of your competition.  With that in mind, let’s cover some basic ideas that will help give you a “leg up” on the process.

  1. Do some basic research . Go and review the company’s website, giving particular attention to their “About Us” and/or “Our Mission” pages, product line pages, and any other content areas that are relevant to your particular position.  It always impresses an interviewer when the candidate demonstrates that they are familiar with the company and its mission, product lines, etc.  Also, consider reading any recent press releases, earnings releases, and/or research reports on the company if these are available.  If possible, do some background research on the people who will be involved in the interview.
  2. Have an updated copy of your resume sitting in front of you during the interview.  Frequently, the interviewer will want to walk down through your career history during the interview and having that information front and center will be quite helpful.  For face-to-face interviews, bring at least four copies of your resume to the interview.
  3. Review the job description itself and think of how you would respond to questions related to each of the identified job requirements.  Be aware that your interviewer is listening for specific illustrations of how you have demonstrated that skill in past work environments and, equally important, how you are going to bring value to their company with that skill in the future. Remember that your interviewer is looking to see “How you are going to bring value to my company?” throughout the interview.
  4. For the interview itself, make sure that you are in a quiet place where you do not have to worry about any interruptions.  You don’t want dogs barking in the background, people opening or closing doors, phones ringing, or any other background noise to threaten the quality of the process.  Be prepared to receive the interviewer’s call up to 10 minutes early or late…some interviewers will check a candidate’s flexibility this way, trying to determine either preparation or frustration.  Others may simply have an unexpected interruption that comes up on their end.
  5. Interviewers are always interested in why past job transitions took place.  Have an elevator speech ready for each one (very short and to the point). Be aware that they are listening for sticking power as they consider you for the position.  “Will this person be around long enough for our company to realize their value and justify our investment in them?” is a question that is usually revolving in their minds.  Never talk negatively about a previous employer and try to put the best positive spin on any transitions that were less than ideal.
  6. Have 2-3 questions prepared for your interviewer (no more).  Typically, an interviewer will ask you if you have any questions.  This represents a real opportunity to impress your interviewer.  The questions you ask can reveal a great deal about your intelligence, insight about the position, genuine interest in the position, and/or the value that you might bring to an organization.
  7. Be very, very, careful not to talk too much or too little.  Be very attentive to social cues that your interviewer is wanting either more information regarding a question or wants to interject a comment during the discussion.  Many candidates lose points during an interview because they either talk too much (provide more detail than necessary for a given question) OR they don’t provide enough information to really answer the question being asked. If you are uncertain of your ability to strike this balance, do a practice interview with someone you consider to have strong people skills.  Give them the job description and then ask them to ask you questions…follow-up by asking for their candid feedback.
  8. Make a list of your top five strengths—Interviewers often ask what candidates believe their strengths are.  So prepare yourself with your top five and be ready to explain them.
  9. Make a list of three weaknesses—By the same token, you may be asked to identify your weaknesses.  Begin talking about them by saying “I feel the areas that I would like to improve on are…”  This is a more difficult task for most of us but knowing and being able to articulate our weaknesses will often be seen as a strength to the interviewer…depending of course on how you frame them.
  10. For obvious reasons never talk about money during your first interview unless the subject is introduced by the interviewer.  If you are working with a recruiter, you should already have a good idea of the compensation and benefits being offered for the position.  Regardless, you will have plenty of time to discuss compensation at a later time.
  11. Communicate your enthusiasm about both the specific position for which you are being considered and why you would specifically like working for their company.  All too often candidates assume that the interviewer already knows of their interest just based on being present for the interview.  This is a mistake. Be prepared to enthusiastically communicate why you are a good fit for the position and specifically why you like the idea of working for their particular company.  This is a time to promote yourself for their particular position and communicate your enthusiasm about the company.  Being energetic and upbeat during the interview will punctuate your candidacy in the mind of the interviewer.
  12. At the conclusion of the interview express your appreciation for the opportunity to be considered for the position. Let your interviewer take the lead on what the next step will be…don’t try to control the process, it will seem pushy.
  13. Do you want the interviewer to call you on your cell phone or a land line? Obviously, a land line is more reliable but is not always convenient or available.
  14. Prepare a brief “Thank You” note after the interview.  Be sure to check carefully for grammar and spelling and the forward to the interviewer.  A hand-written note is a nice touch but email will ensure that your message arrives in a timely fashion.

We hope that these guidelines have been helpful.  Remember the old adage that “success comes when preparation and opportunity meet.”  Utilizing the ideas above will help put you ahead of your competition.