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Phone Interview Tips: How to Convert Calls To In-Person Meetings

Connel Valentine Jul 22, 2019

Ring Ring!

It's finally happened!

After months of applying for jobs, you finally get that interview call.

You give it everything you got. You put on your best voice, you make yourself sound confident. You answer every question to the best of your abilities.

At the end of the call, the recruiter says "Thank you for your time. We'll be in touch if you're selected."

And then, nothing.

You briefly wonder what you did wrong, shrug your shoulders, and move on to the next job application. And the cycle repeats...

That stops today!

Why would you apply for the next job if you don't know why you bombed the last one? You obviously had something right on your résumé else they wouldn't have bothered calling you.

In this post, we are going to fix and fine tune your approach. From now on, every phone call you receive will convert to a handshake with the hiring manager.

Click here: Job Interview Master Class - Video On-Demand Job Interview Course

The First Step!

What do you think is the first thing you should do when that phone rings?

Pick up and say "Hello"? Get your game face on? Run to a quiet room?

All wrong.

The first thing you should do is - NOT answer! Let it go to voicemail on its own.

Yes you read that right. The absolute worse thing you can do when your phone rings from an unknown number as a job seeker, is answer.

Why? Because you are not prepared. This is an interview call. It's as important as the actual interview with the hiring manager itself.

You wouldn't go to the main interview unprepared, so why would this be any different?

You got one shot to impress the calling recruiter. Don't screw it up by going in cold. Let it ring and go to voice mail, listen to the message to know who is calling from which company, and go back to prepare for the return call.

Worried they'd be pissed? Trust me, they won't. All recruiters we have spoken to are totally understanding that you may not be available. Not answering will not harm your chances of getting the interview.

You know what will harm your chances though? Leaving an unprofessional voicemail.

Here is a simple and professional voicemail message: "Hi you've reached Connel Valentine. Sorry I can't take your call right now, but if you leave your name and number, I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks."

I had to add the "Sorry" - I'm Canadian :)

So now you have the words. Now a few basic tips on style.

Your voice mail is going to be the first impression you leave to the recruiter. You want to sound likeable. Have a big, fat smile on your face as you record your message, it makes you sound positive and helps annunciate your words.

In terms of tone, be reasonably positive and enthusiastic. Not too much like you're at the circus, not too little like you're at a funeral.

How To Prepare

OK, you let the call go to voicemail on it's own. Now what?

The first step is to obviously wait till your voice mail icon lights up and listen to the message.

You will get the person's name, the company they are calling from, and the position you applied for. Hopefully they left you an email address as well, that will make things a lot more easier for you.

Stop what you're doing and pull out the following items:

  1. The job description

  2. The company website

  3. The résumé you applied with (hopefully customized?)

  4. LinkedIn Profile of the recruiter

  5. You elevator pitch

Job Description

Review the job description multiple times. Pay special attention to the top 5-7 responsibilities and skills. This is what they need the most from the lucky person filling this job.

Company Website. Know this:

  • What are their products and services

  • Review their "News" or "Press Release" section and check what's been going on

  • Review their "About Us" section, which usually reveals their core values and mission

LinkedIn Profile

Do a filtered search on LinkedIn for the recruiter's name and the company. Review his/her profile to see if anything in common lights up. You may find something you can use on the call, like if you went to the same university/college or if you worked in the same company.

Nothing gets you more likeable than having things in common with the other person.

Your elevator pitch

What? Don't have it written down? Tsk tsk. Naughty job seeker. The recruiter is certainly going to ask you "Tell me about yourself?"

Make the call

With preparation out of the way, you are now ready to make a much more confident call that will impress the recruiter.

Many job search experts tell you to "take notes". Bah! Who needs that distraction when you have technology to help you out.

Record the call using the right app on your mobile phone. You can Google "Call Recording Applications", and choose that one that suits you.

I have personally used TapeACall Pro.

The beauty of recording the call is that you don't have to worry about being distracted by taking notes, giving the recruiter your full attention.

You can also hear yourself in the playback and be your on critique on how the call went.

You can also be confident you won't miss anything. Note-taking can be a risk if you're not a fast writer.

Answer Questions With Laser-Focus

As much as we are aware that rambling is bad, we still tend to do it.

I call it "the curse of knowledge".

We ramble because when we are asked a question, the fine details of that task or project snap into our minds, and we feel obligated to pour our heart and soul into the answer.

We forget that the person who is listening on the other end doesn't have, and doesn't care for, the intricate details of your narration.

Stick to, and practice practice practice, the S.T.A.R. format.

For example, "Tell me about the latest project you worked on?"

The wrong way to answer this question is to go into in-depth history of why the project started, the daily ritual, the billion challenges, the name and title of the multitude of people involved, and so on and on and on.

Stick to S.T.A.R.

  1. Situation - What was the project about and why was it important

  2. Task - What was your responsibility

  3. Action - What did you specifically do in that project

  4. Result - How did the project turn out in the end?

60-90 second narration. Done! Next question.

Shut Up And Listen, But Not Too Much

When the recruiter speaks, you listen.

Not just because it's respectful. You also want to catch those juicy bits of information not revealed in the job description. The recruiter most likely will talk about the team, the company etc.

However, make sure it's not a one-way conversation. Interject with:

"That's interesting". "I see". "That's great."

Where appropriate, throw in a "Can I ask you a quick question about that?"

That's right! You can (and should) ask questions during the interview. Why? Because it shows you have a keen interest.

And believe me, recruiters want to hear enthusiasm and excitement from candidates. And asking well-timed questions is the best way to do that.

Asking Smart Questions

Some say the end of the interview is the most important. It's your chance to leave a lasting impression.

You will definitely be asked "Do you have any questions for me?" The wrong answer is "No." Always use this opportunity to ask questions.

Here are a set of great questions to ask. Your goal is to understand the department's and company's objectives. Because every position exists to meet those objectives. Every hiring manager has the objectives they are trying to achieve front and centre in their minds.

But objectives are never revealed in job descriptions. It's your job to weed them out. Try these questions out at your next phone interview:

  • "Why are you hiring for this position at this time?"

  • "What is the hiring manager like?"

  • "What would a successful candidate look like to the hiring manager?"

  • "What's the team culture like?"

  • "What are their current objectives?"

  • "What challenges are they currently faced with?"

Do you see what you're trying to do here?

Your goal is to understand everything that is important to the hiring manager that was never revealed in the job description. Then you know exactly what to prepare for on the interview with the decision makers.

Follow Up Or Risk Being Forgotten

As easy as following up is, it's just as easily forgotten by the vast majority of job seekers.

Lucky you! You have another chance to stand out from the crowd.

A simple thank you note via email does wonders for your professional image. Also, during the interview if you answer "I'll get back to you on that" for any question, the follow-up is the time to get back to them on that trick question.

Always the professional image!

Prepare Yourself For The Main Interview

Did you know that one of the biggest complaints from recruiters when they call up candidates is that the candidate cannot even remember which position they applied for?

"What job was it again?" Ugh! Major turn off.

By reading this blog, you are miles ahead of your competition.

Keep these points in mind, and your next communication with the recruiter will be to arrange for a date/time for an interview with the decision maker - your future manager!

How many times have you seen that perfect job description, only to never even make it to the main interview?

Following these tips should give you a boost in your confidence during the conversation.

Even if you can't hear it, or see it, you will definitely feel it.

You will feel ready to take that call, and that confidence will burst through your laser-focused answers you prepared for.

Job searching is a painful time. Don't be hurting any longer.

Ace this phone screen interview, and you will be well on your way to the job of your dreams.

Click here: Job Interview Master Class - Video On-Demand Job Interview Course