Acing Your Phone Interview

So, you’ve been contacted for a phone interview. Congratulations! What do you do? What will it be like? How do you prepare? Keep reading to find out!

Purpose of Phone Interviews

The purpose of most phone interviews is for initial screening. Employers have chosen several candidates from the pile of applications they received and want to narrow down who will be invited for in-person interviews. They save time (both yours and theirs) by reaching out to you by phone. These conversations are typically short but can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Depending on the company, you could be speaking with a representative from human resources or the actual supervisor for the position. You may speak with one or more people.

Topics that could come up:

  • Tell me about yourself or Walk me through your resume.
  • What are you hoping for in terms of salary?
  • Describe your experience with ___________ (a skill they are looking for from the job description).
  • Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Why are you leaving your current position (if you are currently employed)?

How to Prepare

Practice answering possible interview questions with a friend, in the mirror, or with your Co-op + Career Advisor. A list of commonly asked interview questions for both co-op and full-time positions as well as a guide to interviewing can be found on our resources webpage: https://wit.edu/coopsandcareers/cooperative-education/co-op-resources.

Conduct research about the company so you understand what they do and why you are interested in working with them. Be ready to answer the questions, “why do you want to work here?” or “what do you know about the company?”. Spend some time on their webpage as well as on their social media channels. Understanding what they care about and how they convey that will give you insight into the company culture.

It’s also a good idea to do some research about the person or people interviewing you if you have that information. A human resources representative will ask very different questions than the supervisor for the position.

At the end of the interview, there will be time for you to ask questions as well. Make sure to have a list of 10-12 questions to ask in case some of them get answered during the interview, however, you will only want to ask three to four questions so as not take up too much time. Do not ask questions that can be answered by a simple google search. Ask specific questions about the position, company, or projects you will be working on. A list of general questions to ask can be found on our interviewing handout.

How to Handle the Salary Question

Be prepared to deal with possible questions about your salary requirements. Use resources such as Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, or the salary feature that is part of a job search on LinkedIn to determine a suitable range for the position, your experience, and the geographical region. Check to see if a salary range is mentioned in the job description. Questions about salary during a phone interview are usually just to make sure you and the employer are on a similar page. If asked, avoid stating a specific figure. Instead, ask if there is a salary range for the position. Then you can say, “I’m sure we can negotiate a mutually agreeable salary within that range once I am offered a position.” If pressed, give a range based on your research.

During the Interview

Have a copy of your resume in front of you as well as the job description. Make sure you are in a quiet space where you will not be interrupted and you won’t lose cell phone service. Without visual and body language cues, phone interviews rely heavily on the content of your answers, and your ability to project enthusiasm and interest in your voice. Smile (even though they can’t see you) and make listening noises to show you are engaged. Stay focused and listen to what they are saying. It may be helpful to have a pen and paper available to take notes. Take a breath between questions and your answers in order to compose your thoughts.

Don’t Forget To…

Thank everyone you spoke with at the end of the interview and make sure you have their email addresses. You will need to send a personalized thank you email to each person you spoke with. Ask about the timeline for the hiring process, what the next steps will be, or when you can expect to hear back from them. This helps you decide how long to wait before following up if you do not hear back within the timeframe they give you. Be confident! They have asked to speak with you because they think you would be a good fit for the position. Tell them why they are right.

Additional Resources

Follow-up Thank You Email Handout: http://bit.ly/2tqjvb7
Top 5 Interview Tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GqTlDZ-WTw

By Ria Kalinowski
Ria Kalinowski Senior CO-OP + CAREER Advisor Ria Kalinowski