How to ace your phone interviews

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Hint: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Imagine this scenario:  You applied for a job and are excited about it.  Then you get a call… the company wants to do a phone interview with you! Panic might set in as you wonder how this will differ from an in-person interview and if you are ready for it.

The advent of Covid-19 has brought a restructuring of the interview process for many employers.  In keeping with proper social distancing protocols, phone interviews are on the rise.

But have no fear! In this blog post, you will learn what phone interviews are and how to get good at them. First let us talk about the “3 P’s”?  The “3 P’s” stand for Practice, Practice, Practice.  This is the mantra to follow for interview success and it equally applies to phone interviews. Remember the “3 P’s” as they will come up again and again in this article. 

What is a phone interview? 

Phone interviews give the company a chance to get a sense of who you are and if you have the basic qualifications for the position. Usually they call you at a prescribed time, but sometimes an employer will launch into a phone interview as soon as they reach you! For this reason, it is best to be prepared when you answer the phone, and the best way to do that is to utilize the “3 P’s”:  Practice, Practice, Practice.

Interviews are a valuable tool for employers, and while previously phone interviews may have been used as a pre-screening tool to shortlist candidates it is now one of the primary ways an employer will determine whether or not you are the right fit for the job. While the length and content of a phone interview may have changed slightly in light of this, the most important information they want to know is still:

  • Whether you are ready and are able to work in this position.
  • The kind of salary range you are hoping for.
  • What you know about the job and their company.
  • What kind of experience you have.

How do I show employers I am a good fit?

Prepare, then practice, practice, practice!

You want to convince employers you meet the requirements of the position you are applying for.  The best way to do this is to prepare by doing your research. Above I listed that one of the things an employer looks for is what you know about the job and their company. They want to hire people who are interested, and if you are really interested, you would have done, at the minimum, your basic research. What is this company? What do they stand for? What are the job requirements of this particular position?

Get to know as much as you can about your potential employer. If possible, I recommend speaking to someone who has worked there. The more you know, the better you can frame your interview answers to highlight your fit. Then research the most commonly asked interview questions. Write out your answers in advance and practice them over and over, trying to memorize them, and until they sound natural. For me, having a solid handle on common interview questions helps reduce my nervousness in an interview.

The disadvantage of an interview over the phone is the employer only gets half of your answers. In person we use hand gestures and communicate through our facial expressions. Interviewers do not see that over the phone. The best way to show that you are engaged is to smile while you talk, because a smile can be “heard” over the phone. Here are some things to do:

  • Practice saying your interview answers out loud while smiling.
  • Smile when you are on the phone with friends or family to help you get into the habit.
  • Practice speaking slower than you normally would.
  • Practice speaking clearer than you normally would. In other words, articulate!

Other ways to prepare include:

  • Setting up a professional voicemail message on your phone
  • Finding a quiet space for this conversation
  • Making sure your phone is fully charged

What if I am new to Canada and still learning English?

Interviews in general can be a daunting process if you are new to Canada. (Read this post for more job search tips for newcomers) Phone interviews make it especially hard to communicate since, as mentioned above, over 50% of communication is accomplished through body language. You may be concerned the interviewer will not understand you.

In The Culture Map, Erin Meyer proposes a solution:  frame it!

Framing is the process of sharing your perspective and highlighting certain qualities over others.  For example, when you acknowledge that you are still growing your English language skills at the beginning of the phone interview, and say that you may need to have a question repeated from time to time, this allows you to showcase your communication skills while owning where you are in your English learning journey.

Practice makes perfect, so dust off those “3 P’s” and put them to work! In this day and age of living with Covid-19, phone interviews are the norm rather than the exception. It is likely that each and every one of you will have a phone interview in your future.  Practice, practice, practice and I am sure it will be a success.

Author: Stacie Gottfried, Employment Services Advisor

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