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5 Ways to Deliver a Stellar Phone Interview

Ashley has spent the past 12 years as a Corporate Recruiter and knows all the do's and don'ts of job hunting to set you up for success.


So, you’re looking for a new job and you’ve made it to the step of a phone call with a Recruiter! That’s huge news as you’re through a few big hurdles in your job hunt already! Prepping for your search, knowing where to look and how, and getting your resume to stand out enough for a Recruiter to choose you over the hundreds of resumes they get for one position, is massive! Kudos to you.

Now you just have to impress someone over the phone and make it to an in-person interview from there.

So, Let’s Back Up: What Is the Purpose of This Step in the Hiring Process?

Typically, companies use phone interviews as a screening tactic to ensure only the best, most qualified candidates are making it to a hiring manager, as to be as efficient as possible with their time. This is a critical step of the process. Usually done with a Recruiter, they are essentially the gatekeeper to the next step, which is time with the actual hiring manager.

Usually 30 minutes or less, this call is your chance to highlight your experience, successes, personality, and expectations. It also gives you the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the role and the company. Remember, job hunting is a two-way street! You want to make sure you’re truly interested as well.

Here are some tips to get you to the next round:

1. Ensure You Have Good Communication During the Actual Scheduling of the Call

This is actually the recruiter’s very first impression of you! Make sure your communications (typically now done through email) are free of errors, and polite. Remember, they’re talking to a million other candidates too. You should be prompt with responses, and easy to work with. It never hurts to show some gratitude for the opportunity to chat about the position and showcase some excitement as well. You’ll stand out this way, I promise!

2. Be Prepared

This seems like a simple one, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had candidates not even know what company or role we’re going to be talking about since they’ve applied to so many. It’s just fine to put out a lot of applications, but make sure you take the time to research the company and role prior to the call.

Check out Glassdoor as a resource for company reviews. You can get a great understanding of what the organization does, what their current and former employees say about working there, as well as sometimes information about benefits, etc. Make sure you have a good understanding of what the company does and read through the job description for this role again. Highlight sections you feel you’d be great at and be prepared to correlate your experience to this.


3. Attitude Is Everything

Add the call to your calendar so you’re expecting it and find a good quiet spot to take it in. Upon answering, showcase your gratitude for the time, and your excitement to talk about the opportunity. Show your interest!

This may seem really simple to a lot of people, but unfortunately doesn’t always happen. I will tell you that as a Recruiter, its common nature to make a judgment call within the first 30 seconds of the phone call, and this all has to do with the personality, engagement and energy of the candidate. Of course, I’m not saying your Recruiter will decide in the first 30 seconds if they will be moving you forward or not, but as in human nature, first impressions are natural, and they will be happening in your call.

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4. Be Clear, Succinct, and Follow the Recruiter’s Lead

Listen, and respond accordingly. Answer questions efficiently—to the point but sharing important detail. Just don’t ramble on. It happens quite often that I ask a candidate the first question, and they proceed to answer it, but then go into a tangent on their experience, and ramble rather than wait for the next question. This comes off as scattered, disorganized, and a red flag in communication competencies usually required for most roles. Often times Recruiters (and hiring managers for that matter) will ask you behavioral-based questions. These are formatted as “tell me about a time you did X” or “give me an example of how you’ve done Y”—these are questions geared at understanding true, real-life experiences through your past history. Be ready for these as they are showing up more and more in hiring processes! Explain the context of the situation in your example, your challenge, what you did, and the result. Be clear, to the point, and honest.

5. Ask Questions!

This is a MUST. You should have at least 3 questions prepared when you’re initially researching the job and company. Some generic ones are: “What do you love most about working for X?” or “Can you share your vision or understanding for the growth of the company over the next few years?” or “What do you see as being the biggest challenge for this role?”

Of course, make sure you get everything else answered too. Location and hours expectations are small details, but necessary to vet out now. You’d hate to get far in the process and realize the hours they want you to work won’t be doable for you. Usually the Recruiter will go over these “housekeeping” items, but make sure you have a checklist of the important details you want to cover and if they aren’t mentioned, ask when its time.

If everything you wanted to know is honestly answered in the conversation, make sure to come up with something. Do not just say all of your questions have been answered. Red flag! This is where your preparation comes in handy. If you have some predetermined questions to ask, you won’t be left speechless.

6. A note about Compensation:

Recruiters should ask about your preferred compensation for the role. Keep in mind that recent legislation makes it illegal to ask what you were making in your previous/current role in some states, so usually you’ll be asked what you’re looking for, or, the Recruiter will just share the range for the role. Please don’t ask to cover this later. It’s a standard topic of conversation at this stage, and there is no point in wasting anyone’s time moving through a process if you and the company aren’t already aligned in this area.

When sharing what you’re looking for around compensation, make sure to be realistic. You can utilize online resources like Glassdoor or Payscale to research what the average pay is for this role in your geographical area but take this with a grain of salt. These are not always accurate, and they don’t take in account a specific company’s overall comp philosophy, budget, or internal peer comparisons.

Compensation ranges within organizations are usually determined and set by lots of market analysis for the position in a certain geography. Where you’ll fit into this range if you get the job will be determined by a couple factors: Your expectations, your experience, and where you align with the current peers doing the same role.

Just be realistic in your expectations and understand that while you can usually negotiate a salary (a bit) down the line, if you are far out of the range they give you, it may not be the best fit.


7. Be Yourself!

Last but not least, just be yourself! The best way to land a job you’ll truly love, is to show your true self. If it turns out you or your experience isn’t what the company is looking for, that’s ok! And it’s for the best to find that out beforehand. You want to be with an organization that you believe in and are passionate about. You want to be in a role that you are challenged in, but one that you have the skills and experience to be successful in. There’s no reason to inflate experience or try to be someone you’re not. Be yourself and you’ll have the best chances of being the happiest and most successful once you land your new gig. Good Luck!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Ashley Gray

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