Employers often use preliminary phone interviews to help them screen applicants and narrow down the list of potential candidates for a position they're looking to fill.
While you may be tempted to skip out on preparing for a phone interview - thinking it's not as big of a deal as a face-to-face interview - that's not a good idea. There are a number of things employers want to find out about you during a phone interview, and you need to get yourself ready to provide that information in a way that will increase your chances of being invited for an in-person job interview.
Here are some preparation tips so you're ready for that tech job phone interview when it happens:
- Rehearse your answers to typical interview questions ahead of time: Go through this list of typical interview questions and come up with some answers beforehand so that you're not left stumbling over your words when you're actually answering them. Create a "cheat sheet" that you can refer to during the interview, but do your best not to sound like you're reading out your answers. If you can, find someone with whom you can run through a "mock interview" - have your friend ask the questions, listen to yourself answer them so you can anticipate which questions might trip you up, and get feedback from your interview-practice buddy on how you sound.
Also be aware that in phone interviews for a technical jobs, the interviewer may present a specific problem to you and will ask you to explain how you would solve it. This is not just to gauge your technical skill, but also to figure out your problem-solving approach. While you can't really know exactly what the interviewer will ask you in this case, at least be aware that this question may come up; anticipating a problem-solving question is part of the preparation process.
- Pick the right location: You want to be comfortable - but not so much that you sound overly relaxed - and you don't want any distracting noises around you, including those made by pets, children or spouses. If other people are going to be around you when you are having the interview, make sure to let them know that you cannot be interrupted.
- Use a land line if at all possible: Cell phones can be unreliable; the battery might suddenly die, or the reception might be terrible. You want to be able to hear clearly all the questions the interviewer is asking you, and you want the interviewer to be able to hear your answers without your voice cutting in and out, or your call being dropped.
- Have all your materials handy: This includes your resume and cover letter, so you can follow along if the interviewer refers to anything on either of those documents, as well as a pen and paper for taking notes during the interview. You can also have your "cheat sheet" ready so you can refer to it when you're answering questions.
- Listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying or asking: You want to be able to answer precisely the question the interviewer is asking you. Don't go off on tangents; stick to the topic, and give specific and succinct answers. Also listen carefully so you can ask follow-up questions regarding anything that comes up during the interview that you would like clarified. Prepare in advance a list of questions to ask the interviewer.
- Remain positive at all times: Never bash former or current employers, bosses or colleagues, and keep your answers positive by using language that always communicates what you can do - even if you're asked about your weaknesses, or potential gaps in skills or experience. Avoid sarcasm or humor that could be misinterpreted; remember, this is over the phone, so the interviewer is unable to see your facial expressions or body language, and must take your comments at face value.
Try to smile while you speak, and do not hesitate to mention how excited you are about the opportunity to contribute your abilities to the company. Leave the door open for further communication and follow-up opportunities by asking what the next step is, and when you can expect to hear back.
- Thank your interviewer: Make sure you express your gratitude to the person who interviewed you, both verbally, at the end of the interview, and in writing, via a post-interview thank-you letter.