This is the seventeenth in a series of blogs supporting the College to Career Calendar available for downloading at Today’s blog discusses strategies for preparing for a phone interview. We will discuss three types of interviews: the unexpected call, a scheduled call with human resources and an interview with the hiring manager.

Before we discuss the strategies for each of these types of calls, I want to cover how to use your phone as an effective job search tool. The way you answer the phone or your voice mail message may form a prospective employer’s first impression of you. To make sure the impression is positive; I suggest you do the following:

Create a professional voice mail message. One way of doing this is to begin by stating your full name and phone number (this lets employers know they have reached the correct person), and then requests callers leave their name and number along with a brief message, and end with a commitment to call back as soon as possible.

Answer the phone ONLY WHEN YOU CAN TAKE A CALL. If you do not recognize the number of the person calling assume it is a prospective employer.  Take the call if you are in a place free of background noise and able to give the caller your full attention. If you are not, let the call roll over to voice mail.

Check your phone for messages every hour during a job search. Returning a call promptly shows you are both interested in the position and handle calls in a professional manner.

Now for the types of calls you will be handling:

For each call have your job application file in front of you. This file should contain a copy of the job description, your resume, your cover letter, responses to the sample questions you developed (see last week’s blog/live stream for details), and any notes you have about the company.

The Unexpected Call:

The unexpected (“out of the blue”) call. The person on the other end of the line usually starts the conversation by stating their name, their company’s name, and asking if you have time to answer a few questions. The first question you need to ask yourself is can I give this person 100% of my attention right now and am I in a place with minimal background noise? Can you quickly grab your file on this job application (copy of job description/your resume and cover letter/ SAR statements)?  If you not, ask if you can call them back at a specific time.

The usual purpose of this call is to confirm you are still interested in the job and clarify any confusion over the information you provided. To you, it seems obvious that if you applied for a job you are interested, however, there a many people who apply for a job and then decide it is not right for them or accept an offer for a new job and are no longer interested. Do not be annoyed with these questions, be positive and enthusiastic. You are making a first impression. In terms of clarifying information, the most common questions are about having two jobs at the same time or why you have held jobs in different states. As a student you may have worked summers at home and at college the rest of the year; the caller just needs you to explain that. The caller may also ask you about your salary expectations. Be prepared to say you really need to know more about the job before you are prepared to discuss your salary expectations. If the salary for the job was posted respond with the range provided (the person calling wants to make sure you know the salary range).

As soon as you end the call send a thank saying how much you enjoyed your conversation and look forward to the next step in the selection process.


The screening call:

A prospective employer may have the human resources office screen applicants. In this case, you will get a call or email asking to schedule a time for a meeting. Confirm the appointment by restating or writing the time and date in your response.  The questions asked by the HR department are usually generic rather than job specific questions, but you with your job file you are prepared for job specific questions. It is very likely you will be asked these questions during a screening call:

What would you like me to know about you? (Tell me about yourself.) Your answer should include academic preparation (your degree/certification), your job related strengths and reason you are interested in the job.

What do you know about our company/organization? Your answer should include 3-4 facts.

What are your weaknesses? Your answer should include one internship related weakness and how it will be handled.

What are your strengths? Your answer should include 4-5 internship related strengths.

What are your career goals?

When are you available to start?

As soon as you end the call send a thank you note.

Interview with a hiring manager

This is the same as an in-person interview with a few challenges. Eighty to ninety percent of communication during an interview is non-verbal.  Since you cannot see the interviewer’s physical reactions and he/she cannot see yours, you have to work hard to convey your enthusiasm using your voice and ask questions to learn how the interviewer feels about your answers. To do this:
Make sure you have a quiet space to take the call.

Stand up during the call-it makes you sound more energetic and enthusiastic.

Smile-put a mirror in your space if that will help you remember to smile. Your voice sounds friendlier and more enthusiastic when you are smiling.

After answering a complex question like,” tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult situation”, ask if that is the type of information the interviewer was seeking.

End the call by thanking the interviewer for spending time with you and asking about the next step in the selection process; it shows interest.

As soon as you end the call send a thank you note.

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