Job Hunt 6 – Phone Interviews


It’s been a whole week since the last Job Hunt, by my math you should have between 70 and 140 resumes submitted, and you’re primed and ready to start interviewing.

Typically the interview process can be a long one, and when you are miserable at your current position and eager to escape, an interview process that lasts about two weeks can almost feel like two years!

As we know it’s never as simple as getting a call for an in person interview and then getting your job.  Just like meetings, there’s always got to be an interview to pass which will get you to the next interview.  That qualifying interview is called the phone interview.

Phone interviews are your layup interview.  These are easy one off calls, typically made by an HR representative from the company to review your resume and tell you a little more about the position.  So when these calls get scheduled, try not to get too excited or too nervous.  These are calls are super valuable for several reasons.

  1. You get to learn more about the position
  2. You get to ask some of the questions you have
  3. You get the opportunity to make a great first impression

Preparing for your Phone Interview:

First thing is first, know your schedule.  When HR representatives reach out to coordinate a phone interview they will ask what your schedule will look like.  It is critical that you know your schedule so you can block off an appropriate amount of time for your call.  Typically these calls take between 20 or 30 minutes, however allot an hour of time for this call just in case you hit it off with the HR rep and get to talking.  Do not put a notification on your work calendar for this call!  

I can’t stress that enough.  When you are coordinating calendars – don’t put information about your job search on your work calendar.  Sounds like it would be common sense, but you wouldn’t believe how many people do this type of stuff.  Your job search is a secret!  Keep it secret, keep it safe.

After you’ve determined what your week looks like, send over at minimum two days you have time for a call.  This shows the HR rep some flexibility with their schedule coordination, and will allow you a higher chance of getting a spot on their calendar faster.

Next, think up about five questions that you have about the company or the position.  The HR representative may not be able to answer all of those questions for you, as they are just a liaison to the person in whose department you would be working, but having the questions handy when the pressure is low will help you tons before the in person interview.  You always want to have questions, and when there is minimal pressure and stress, you’re going to have an easier time thinking up those questions.

Once you have those couple of things done, you’re ready for your phone interview!   Seriously, phone interviews are awesome and easy.

Smile when you talk

This may sound odd, but it will seriously work.  Just because you are talking on the phone, doesn’t mean that you can slouch.  You still need to be in the professional mindset.  There are a couple of things that can help trick your brain into being in this mindset if it isn’t already.

The first trick is to change out of pajamas or casual clothes, and put on more business oriented clothes.  The next trick is to practice speaking your questions in the mirror while looking at yourself in your business attire.  The third is to review your resume quickly and be able to speak to it off the top of your head, lastly, smile when you talk on the phone.

My dad used to say this to me all the time when I started in sales “people can hear you smile”.  It’s true.  If you speak while smiling, your voice inflections are more positive and upbeat, and even if you aren’t in a great mood, the more you smile the better you feel.  This will come off in phone interviews and really help you nail down a great first impression.

The last best piece of advice I can give you for phone interview is this – when asked why you left jobs, have a reason!

If you were let go from a position, don’t just tell an HR person “I was let go” or even worse “I was fired”.  These are very big no nos.  What you need to do is have a reason why you were let go.  Was the company struggling financially?  Was there departmental restructuring?  Was it an old position, and you were let go during the recession?

There are a lot of creative ways to tell someone why you were let go from a job other than “I was fired”.  Also – when you discuss this do not give them the long drawn out story!  Keep it short, sweet, and positive.  Even if that company has now made your list of archenemies, do not speak poorly of them!  HR people see things like this, if you speak poorly about your previous employer, imagine what you will say about them.  So keep it positive.

If you have changed jobs a lot in your past and you have jumped industries or  positions, have a reason why you changed from job to job.  For example, I used to sell a lot of technology, now I negotiate pharmacy contracts.  The question was posed to me several times, “Why are you making this change?”.

My answer was as follows, “While I enjoyed selling, and am very passionate about technology, I found that I needed something more in my careers.  I had previously held a position where I worked closely with the medical field, and I knew that when I did my job well, I saved lives.  That mattered to me, that made my position feel important.  I don’t just want to earn a salary, I want to help people every day as well.”

You might scoff at that statement, but it really is true for me.  While money is a motivator to continue showing up for work and collecting the paycheck, I need a reason to stick around other than just earning a paycheck.  Knowing that I’m helping people, directly or indirectly, not only makes me more passionate about my work, but it is also an answer a lot of people aren’t expecting to hear now.  So really think about why you have left jobs and why you have accepted other positions.  Show HR how you think critically about your career path and the benefits will really shine for you.

Last thing we need to discuss.  Salary.

Here is the general rule, and this is becoming more and more common.  If the HR representative talks pay first then you can talk salary.  A lot of times the job will have a very set salary around it, if you are an experience professional, the HR person might tell you this so you know where the salary stands.  They do this so you both can get on the same page with the position.  You know that you aren’t going to take a position making less than what you are making now.  So by them telling you the salary of the position, you can now make the decision to either pursue the opportunity to the in person interview, or say “no thanks” because the salary is too low.

This is the only time it is acceptable to talk pay.  Never bring up salary expectations on your own.  This is best saved for the in person interview or contract negotiations.

I hope that these tips help you!  If you have any questions or comments please leave them below or on the Facebook page!

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