Found a creative, digital or marketing job opportunity you’re eager to land? You need to make sure your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and portfolio are in excellent shape. But to secure a meeting with the hiring manager (and to ultimately land the actual role) your initial phone screen interview also must go well. And that requires preparation.
A phone screen interview can come with its own challenges. For instance, some job seekers may view a phone call as just a casual conversation and then fail to adequately prep; other applicants may view it as daunting due to the lack of facial expressions and other visual cues.
One thing is certain: Your performance during the call is a critical first step in securing the job you want. The key to increasing the likelihood of a second interview is to provide a thorough glimpse into your qualifications and convey enthusiasm for the specific role—yet simultaneously leave the interviewer wanting to know more.
How can you accomplish this? Read on for some time-tested phone interview tips.
MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION
Phone interviews are uniquely pivotal. As your only interaction with the company (thus far), the phone interview serves as the determining factor in whether you’ll have the opportunity to continue pursuing the role. Simple ways to make a likeable impression during the phone screen interview include:
- Smiling while you talk. People can “hear” when you smile, as facial expressions naturally influence tone of voice. Additionally, smiling can help alleviate any anxiety you feel during the interview.
- Laughing at appropriate times in the conversation. Genuine laughter communicates friendliness, warmth, and can help foster a more organic conversation. Conversely, don’t force a laugh.
- Developing rapport with the interviewer. To help steer the conversation in a more meaningful and authentic direction, be genuine. Don’t just say what you think the interview would like to hear. Try to mirror the tone of the interviewer and find things you have in common. If your own questions and observations are relevant to the question you are being asked, share them in your response—rather than waiting to list them off at the end. These types of naturally arising discussion points can lead to a more fluid conversation that progresses beyond a rigid question-and-answer format.
Ready for your next interview?
2. KNOW YOUR (CAREER) STORY
Your qualifications and abilities are critical, of course. However, differentiating yourself from the competition can require more than reciting a checklist of hard and soft skills. Be prepared to share responses on why and how you developed those skills. This will help provide insights into not only what you can do—but who you are.
For example: What are some accomplishments from past roles that will directly relate to the job? Sharing the story behind your qualifications indicates you can perform the necessary skills for the role and it provides a more detailed look into your passions, goals, motivations and ability to navigate challenges. Just be careful to keep your focus. Steer clear of irrelevant stories and anecdotes. Succinctly articulating your story will show the interviewer you are skilled and that you’ve put substantial thought into interviewing for the role.
3. MAKE EVERY SECOND OF THE PHONE INTERVIEW COUNT
The questions that you ask can seal the deal on whether the recruiter decides to pass your name onto the hiring manager. Recruiters typically love when candidates pose informed, high-quality questions: Ask about the role’s big-picture impact, the company culture, and training programs. These types of topics tend to be held in particularly high regard. When you're prompted to ask questions at the end of the interview, feel free to refer to a list you’ve prepared beforehand—but also use the time to clarify any information from the conversation. This has the double benefit of showing you’re curious and motivated, but also that you paid careful attention during the phone screen interview.
4. FOLLOW UP PROMPTLY
Sending a follow-up email directly after any interview is important. It is a thoughtful gesture, shows your interest, and can set you apart from other candidates. Referencing specific information from the call and reiterating that you’re excited for next steps can be particularly helpful.
Did you chat with multiple people? Avoid asking the recruiter to thank someone on your behalf. Sending a follow-up email to a recruiter provides the opportunity to ask for someone’s email and thank the person directly.
VIRTUAL INTERVIEW TIPS
Work has become increasingly virtual, and so are interviews. Some companies today conduct initial screening interviews virtually rather than over the phone. The following tips will help ensure your video chat goes off without a hitch:
- Have your virtual platform set up and ready to go beforehand. From your microphone and camera to your internet connectivity—there are a number of things that need to go right to even begin a virtual interview. Check everything beforehand to ensure you’re not frantically fumbling with your computer as the call begins.
- Remove distractions. It’s important your focus is placed squarely on the interviewer—and vice-versa. Silence virtual distractions such as incoming email notifications. Avoid physical distractions too. (Setting up your computer in an area of your home that has a simple background is best.)
- Dress professionally. It may be tempting to pair a business casual top with pajama bottoms, but what if you need to move away from your computer? Additionally, dressing the part will help put you in the right mindset for exceling in a job interview.
- Maintain eye contact. We are more memorable when we establish eye contact. That said, doing so in virtual interviews can be somewhat tricky. While it may be counterintuitive to look directly into the camera rather than the image of the interviewer, doing so can help establish a better connection.
PROGRESSING TO THE NEXT ROUND
The goal of each step of the interview process is to simply make it to the next stage—and ultimately, secure a job offer. You’ll want to end the initial phone interview feeling like you’ve relayed why you are the candidate best-suited for the role, but that you’ve also expressed the information in a compelling, concise and memorable way. Remember to approach the phone interview with the same level of enthusiasm and preparation as you would an in-person interview. Good luck!