The phone interview is a screening process to weed out too many candidates and narrow down the time spent doing in-person interviews.
Even though getting to the face-to-face interview is your biggest goal of the day, there are several smaller goals to aim for that will help you get to that big one.
(1) Don’t give them a reason to weed you out.
In a phone interview, employers can weed you out of the running for the smallest, most seemingly insignificant reasons. If they called you, there’s something about you they liked. So now they’re looking for reasons not to like you. Don’t give them one. So, be very well-prepared, even though it’s only a phone interview. Treat it like a face-to-face. Research, prepare, dress well, make sure you have a quiet spot, be on time, focus, and let them know you’re interested in the job.
(2) Find out their biggest problems.
The job interview is a sales process. You are both the product and the sales rep. No sales rep ever sells anything without finding out a few pertinent facts about their customer. In this case, the customer is the company you’re interviewing with. So what do you need to know? First, you need to know why and when they need someone. Knowing that timeline will help you later. Second, you need to know what their biggest problem or challenge is. What skills do they need someone to have in order to meet those challenges? Ask questions.
(3) Answer their questions well.
Answering their questions well depends partly on the answers you’ve prepared ahead of time and partly on what you learn during the interview. When you ask questions, the answers they give you tell you a lot about what they want to hear in their answer. For instance, if you ask, “What does your ideal candidate look like?”, their answer gives you a list of the qualities they are looking for most. Now you know what to pick out of your own experience to talk about when you answer their questions. It will have a big impact on them.
(4) Close for the next step.
You have a much bigger chance of getting invited to the face-to-face interview if you ask for it. That’s closing. It’s a sales term that just means “asking for the business.” In a phone interview, all you have to do is say something like, “Wow, Jim, I’m really excited about this opportunity. It seems like I’m a great fit because of X, Y, and Z. When can we get together to talk some more about it?” If you’re brave enough to ask, you’ll boost your chances of getting the results you want by a LOT.
Got a big phone interview coming up? Let’s make sure you’re ready with a half-hour of coaching!