In addition to having a stellar resume and a well-crafted cover letter, you also need to know how to pass phone interviews to get the job you really want.
How To Pass Phone Interviews: Why They’re So Essential
Human resource managers and recruiters are typically under a deluge of resumes and candidates to consider for any given position. This is especially true now due to the speed and ease with which job applicants can submit for online positions with ready-saved resumes and cover letters on sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter.
HR professionals face a tsunami of candidates (qualified and not) everyone morning when they open their inboxes. So, your main goal should be to make their jobs as easy as possible so they can discover just how awesome, skilled and talented you truly are.
The phone interview is the first step in this process that you have active control over, so don’t screw it up.
How To Pass Phone Interviews: A Big Deal But Not A Huge Deal
Don’t worry, although important, phone interviews are a very early step in the job hiring process.
If you bomb one, well, just consider it time saved on both yours and the part of the hiring manager. Disappointing but nothing to lose too much sleep over.
The main goal of the phone interview is to whittle down the pool of candidates from the hundreds (and sometime thousands) of resumes received and the dozen or two candidates an HR manager determines to be the best possible fits for the position being filled.
Your resume and cover letter got you through the first gate. Now passing the phone interview is going to take you from the top twenty candidates into the realm of the top ten or so.
How To Pass Phone Interviews: Why Hiring Managers Need Them
Human resources interviewers and recruiters use phone screenings to do three crucial things.
1. To reduce the field of job candidates.
Human resource departments need to make sure they don’t waste their co-workers time setting up in-person interviews for people who aren’t qualified for a position.
2. To prevent themselves from looking bad.
They also want to avoid the embarrassment of putting forth a clearly unqualified or incompetent candidate for consideration by their team.
3. To maintain the cultural identity of their company.
Skills, education and talents are one thing, but another important part of being the right person for the job is to be able to fit in with the current corporate culture. The phone screener wants to make sure the candidate will be an easy person to work with and somebody on whom the team can rely.
How To Pass Phone Interviews: Three Keys To Success
There are three main things job candidates want to do in order to give themselves the highest possible chance of getting an in-person interview.
1. Understand and prepare to address the job description.
This sounds simple and probably like a no-brainer. But think again.
You read the job description and tailored your cover letter and resume to accentuate your strengths in regard to the details posted. That’s great, but there’s more work to be done if you want to pass a phone interview.
Hiring managers and phone screeners are usually very smart people. However, they don’t know everything and they usually aren’t experts in all of the fields for positions they need to fill and interview candidates for.
They use the job description that you saw posted as their main measuring stick to determine if a candidate is indeed qualified for the role being offered.
This means that your job (if you want to pass phone interviews) is to break down the job description piece-by-piece (i.e. sentence by sentence or bullet point by bullet point) and create individual talking points for each.
For example, if a job description says it seeks “a self-starter with expertise in using the Adobe Creative Software Suite and a fine attention to detail,” you’ll want prepare a short answer to a hypothetical question asking you to give an example of each of the following:
- One time in your professional career where you achieved successful results by being a self-started
- Previous work projects where you used your expertise in the Adobe Creative Software Suite and how it was specifically implemented
- An instance in which your fine attention to detail benefitted your team or employer in a way that was exceptional and beyond the abilities of less talented person (a hypothetical one, don’t write “I was better than that dummy Tim who no one liked!”)
2. Focus on and hammer the keywords.
Of course people aren’t computers but that doesn’t necessarily mean SEO doesn’t work on the human brain.
As mentioned above, phone screeners typically use the same job description you saw as they take notes in their effort to glean as much information from your conversation as possible to determine if you are the ideal match for their position.
So, be sure to pick out five or six of the most important keywords that pertain to the position and use them as often as possible when answering questions and providing information about your talents and abilities.
If the job description is looking for a “creative, energetic copywriter who is a compelling storyteller” be sure to deliver on that with your words.
Talk about how your copywriting while transform the company’s narrative into an tale of epic proportions that consumers will find an irresistible story that they’ll feel compelled to share with friends, family, and strangers and will find themselves revisiting again and again.
Yes, that is pouring it on a bit thick. But you get the idea.
3. Cultivate your cultural message.
As stated earlier, hiring managers and phone screeners are looking for people who will be good fits with their company’s current corporate culture. They’re looking to keep a steady course, not rock the boat. (Especially if you’re applying for a position on a cruise ship or crab fishing boat.)
Here are some key pitfalls to avoid:
- Don’t make yourself seem lazy. Refrain from asking about daily work hours and opportunities for vacations and time off. There’ll be plenty of time for that at future in-person interviews.
- Don’t come off as a control freak. Don’t describe yourself as a “perfectionist” because a lot of times this comes off as sounding like you’re a control freak, which you aren’t. (And, even if you are, keep that stuff tucked it and save it for your off hours at home working on your train sets and hobbies. Nobody likes to work with a busybody.)
- Don’t make yourself sound inexperienced. The best way to avoid this is to avoid referring to yourself as “hard working.” Hard working often sounds like an admission that you’re under-skilled for the position and will attempt to make up for this by working extra hard, which rarely impresses.
How To Pass Phone Interviews: Be Prepared And Be Confident
Those are the three main techniques to ensure that you move from phone interview candidate to in-person interview candidate and hopefully score the job (and career) of your dreams.
Check back for future posts on how to pass in-person job interviews and how to negotiate the best possible compensation package once you’re hired.