phone interview should be an exciting and hopeful stage of the hiring process for any candidate. But as the first point of direct human contact with a prospective employer, phone interviews can also be a source of anxiety. That's unfortunate—and the good news is, it's unnecessary, too.
Ready to ace your phone interview? With a little planning and preparation, plus the following eight steps, you can conduct your phone interview with confidence and bring yourself that much closer to your dream job.
Plan to Set Aside 30 Minutes to an Hour
Not knowing what to expect always adds anxiety. Your recruiter will probably tell you how long the interview is going to take ahead of time, but if not, be sure to ask. Thirty minutes to one hour is typical for a phone interview. It's best to take the call from a place that's quiet and where you're comfortable.
Test Your Communication Technology Ahead of Time
How are you and the recruiter planning to connect? If it's just a simple phone call, wearing headphones equipped with a microphone can help cut out distracting ambient noise. If you're going to have a video call—for instance, using Skype or Google Hangouts—log into your account well in advance and do a trial run with a friend. You may need to adjust the microphone-input levels on your computer. And here's a professional tip: Don't just place your laptop flat on the kitchen table. Elevate it by putting it on a stack of books so you're looking directly into the camera. It's a much more flattering angle for everyone.
Follow the Four Cs of Tone
Always keep in mind the four Cs of voice: You want to sound calm, comfortable, confident (not cocky) and conversational. If nervousness is an issue, plan to stage a quick phone call with a friend or family member immediately before the interview. That can help you settle into a more comfortable, conversational flow.
Pitch Your Voice to Increase Clarity
If you're connecting over the phone without video, the absence of visual cues can be confusing. It may not always be clear if someone has actually finished speaking or is merely pausing mid-thought. That's why it's important to "telegraph" some structural aspects of language using the pitch of your voice. While researchers may disagree on the broader cultural meaning of "upspeak"—that is, when you raise your pitch as you approach the end of a phrase—in a phone interview you should use it to signify that you are asking a question. For declarative statements, do the opposite, starting in a higher register and ending on a lower one.
Pause for Maximum Effect
Even if you know what you're going to say next, pause briefly before each answer. Doing so makes you say seem thoughtful, which can add weight and authority to your answer. It also gives you a chance to breathe. And remember: There's no need to fill in the silence with nervous-sounding filler words like "um" and "ah." Instead, leverage silence as a source of strength.
Be Prepared for a Few Open-Ended Questions
You're probably going to encounter some variant of "Tell me a little bit about yourself," which is why it's a good idea to have something like your professional purpose or a brief summary of your experience and goals memorized and ready to dispense when needed. Here are two succinct yet effective examples of professional purposes:
- "I've always been interested in using technology to improve human health. In particular, since I graduated with a dual major in biology and engineering, I want to explore 3-D printing applications in healthcare."
- "Ever since I got my first smartphone, I've been dreaming up ways to use the technology to improve health outcomes—especially for people in the developing world. I know that mHealth is an area where your company is a leader."
Notice that, as both of these examples indicate, your professional purpose needs to blend your specific skills, training and interests as a candidate with the company's specific focus areas. Also, by preparing an answer that's short, specific and gets to the point, you'll be memorable.
Clearly Express Your Interest in the Role and Company
By the time the phone interview rolls around, a lot of vetting has already taken place. At this stage, recruiters are trying to get a read on candidates' overall interest in the role. Competition for talent is especially fierce right now, and candidates with highly in-demand skills may be mulling over multiple job offers. Plus, some candidates will inevitably be approaching certain roles as backups in the event that something else falls through. It's usually easy for recruiters to sniff out this kind of stuff.
That's why, if you're genuinely excited about the role and the company, it's essential for you to communicate that. Try to make some part of your response during the interview personal. For instance, can you tell a story about how you personally connect to the company, or what the mission of the company means to you? If you've researched the company, do your best to work some of that research into your answer, too.
Before Wrapping Up, Discuss Next Steps
Before hanging up, thank the recruiter for taking the time to interview you, then make sure that you're both clear on next steps. For instance, when should you expect to receive an update on your application status? Is there any follow-up from the phone call—like additional materials to share—that you need to send to the company? If so, do you have the appropriate email addresses?
Try to verbally summarize these next steps, and ask your interviewer to confirm that your summary is correct. That will ensure you're both on the same page, while also neatly showcasing your verbal and analytical skills.
The competition for top talent today is intense, but your path to the job of your dreams doesn't have to be. By following these eight simple steps, you'll be ready to shine during your phone interview.
If you're interested in launching your career with Johnson & Johnson today, see all of the opportunities available right now. If you're not making it to the phone-interview phase of the application process as often as you think you should, hang in there—and make sure you're taking the right approach to your job hunt. Or maybe it's the way you're presenting yourself that isn't doing you justice? Check out four resume tips that can make all the difference.