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May 17, 2016 // 8:00 AM

Call Me, Maybe? Nailing the Recruiter Phone Interview

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PhoneI_Interview.jpgAs a recruiter, I read hundreds of resumes a week. Very few of them spark a phone interview, so if yours does, it means I’m fairly confident you’d be a great fit for the role. While your confidence should be high, there's nothing like good, old-fashioned preparation to help you nail your first chance to impress. Below is a short soundtrack of tips and advice that I hope will help you do just that.

We Can Work From Home

Confucius once said: “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” This sentiment holds true in any sort of performance, be it sports, speech delivery, or, of course, interviewing. The more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be, and the more you’ll stand out to the recruiter.

One of the greatest differentiators between a traditional interview and a phone interview is that, just like those take home tests in college, it’s open book. As you await the arrival of the call, you should set up your desk or workspace with the following three essentials: your notes, your laptop, and a glass of water.

  1. Your Notes
    Using the job description, and any other resources you have at your disposal, think about what the recruiter and hiring managers are looking for in a candidate and about what questions would uncover those traits. Brainstorm a good list of questions and write down your answers so you can practice them in your head (or aloud!) before the call. Even if those specific questions aren’t asked, you have a bank of answers and experiences ready that you can tweak as needed. You should also have information about the company, the specific role you are applying for, and any questions you want to be sure to ask the recruiter close by. 
  1. Your Laptop
    A laptop can be useful if you need to do any last-second research during the call. Of course, you don’t want the recruiter to hear you typing while he or she is speaking, so I’d recommend using the laptop for “emergencies” only. But, in case you do need to use it, be careful to close all extraneous tabs and windows on your screen and mute the sound. You don’t want some Bieber to unexpectedly blast out of your speakers during the call. The fewer distractions, the better.

  2. A Glass of Water
    You are going to be doing a lot of talking, probably for the better half of an hour, so having a glass of water on hand in case you get parched is always a good idea.

While phone interviews are great because they give candidates the flexibility to interview from anywhere, this does not mean that you should, in fact, interview from anywhere. For example, do not conduct a phone interview while driving. Instead, treat a phone interview as you would an in-person meeting. Make sure you find a quiet room where you won’t be distracted or disturbed. Remove your puppy and all crinkly potato chip bags from the vicinity. It’s important that the recruiter can sense how seriously and professionally you’re taking this opportunity.

Practice Thinking Out Loud

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your phone begins to ring. The interview starts from the second you pick up the call. Because there is no face-to-face interaction in a phone interview, you cannot use body language to communicate. In this case, things like tone and word-choice become exponentially more important.

The importance of oratorical expertise, like whether or not you use filler-words, varies greatly depending on the role for which you are interviewing. Keep in mind that if you are interviewing for a customer-facing or consulting role, the way you present yourself on the phone could not be more vital.

At HubSpot, for example, if I’m interviewing a candidate for a technical support role or a sales role, I’m constantly thinking “Is this someone who my hiring managers and I would be comfortable putting on the phone with our valued customers?” Give your recruiter every reason to feel excited about the prospect of you representing his or her company. Be friendly, but professional. Be talkative, but don’t ramble. Be willing to challenge ideas, but don’t be prickly.

How Do I Say Goodbye To What We Had?

Even the greatest and most energetic phone interview can be tainted by a weak ending. Don’t let a few moments of awkwardness derail what was already a productive call.

Every recruiter that I know likes it when a candidate is active about garnering feedback and next steps. It’s always a good idea to close the call by asking the recruiter if he or she has any advice or thoughts on your application. This question shows that you’re thoughtful, humble, and interested in learning. Of course, you have to show that you are actually ready to receive feedback, so don’t push back too hard unless your answers or experiences were misheard or misunderstood.

Even if you think you totally bombed it, stay positive and confident through the conclusion of the interview because you never know what the recruiter is thinking. As my older (and wiser) sister once told me, you only remember the questions that you struggled with. Candidates almost always do better in interviews than they think.

One Call Away

The fatal flaw in a phone interview is thinking that it will be easier than an in-person one. Interviewing over the phone can make it harder for both parties to judge the others’ reactions, and since the phone interview is usually the first touch between the company and the candidate, it warrants even more preparation than you might initially think.

But, if you do your due diligence and set yourself up for success during your phone interview, you’ll hopefully hear back from your recruiter in the next few days who will reach out to say, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy,” but you are moving on to the next round of interviews!

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