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What to Do When You Are Awful at Phone Interviews


If your resume is shortlisted and your recruiter is calling or emailing you to set up a phone interview, you may have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s exciting to hear from someone in the company you are interested in, while on the other hand, phone interviews are often not the best platform to present how awesome you are.

phone interview

(Photo Credit: stevendepolo/Flickr)

Honestly, phone interviews are not great at helping HR assess a candidate, nor do they necessarily present the best spotlight for candidates to impress the recruiter or hiring manager. Background noise, phone connection strength, your mood before the phone call, or your foreign accent – all can be impediments to a successful phone call.

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The reason phone interviews are used in the shortlisting phase is to overcome the shortage of time and resources. Instead of having you come over, and paying for your travel, it’s easier to catch you on the phone to figure out if you are worth investing in.

So how do you clear the phone interview? Well, here are a few tips that might help.

1. Do a test run.

Some people are just not comfortable over the phone. They find it inconvenient to talk to a machine and disconcerting not being able to see their audience’s reaction. It unnerves them and it’s just a downhill experience from there on. So do multiple mock interviews, with friends and family and anybody who’d indulge you, preferably from a number and place where you will be taking the interview. In these interviews, make sure you are not rambling, and you are answering questions using the Situation, Task, Action, Result technique.

2. Have your answers ready for the most common interview questions.

If you are prepared for questions, you are less likely to be taken by surprise. So have a set of pointers to common questions. But when you answer, make sure you don’t sound like you are reading off answers from your notes. You want to sound genuine.

3. Answer the phone enthusiastically.

This may seem like redundant advice, but most candidates pick up the phone as if they were not expecting the call, or as if they are in between something more important. If you answer the phone and make the recruiter feel that you were looking forward to hearing from her, you are setting a positive tone to the interview. “Hi, XYZ, thank you for calling, I am excited to talk about this opportunity,” is a great way to start the discussion.

4. Offer to meet at the office.

Why not? If you absolutely cannot take the phone call, because you have a hard-to-understand accent, or you have unresolvable phone issues, or you just feel you’d be able to perform much better in person, offer the option. You could tell the recruiter that you are a local candidate and you would be excited to meet the interviewer in person if it’s OK. She may still insist on a phone call, but if you at least ask, you are showing a lot of keenness toward the job and she may even let the hiring manager know of the option of meeting in person. There’s also the chance that she will invite you onsite. Ask and you may actually receive!

5. Ask the recruiter.

Ask the recruiter if she can give you any advice for the phone interview with the hiring manager. Don’t push for her to leak the question paper, just ask her for advice. You are a part of the recruiter’s job. If you get the job, she closes the requisition faster, so she may be able to share some pointers with you about the interview that can help.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you had phone interviews? What are your tips to better tackle this screening process? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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