Job Search

Job interviewing is NOT for Dummies…so don’t be one (Telephone Interviews)

Some of you might have read a blog post I wrote a few months ago about putting together a good resume.  If you don’t mind my less than humble opinion, I thought it had some pretty good advice in it.

But what happens after you’ve created the most awesome resume – ever – and sent it in to a prospective employer?  Well, hopefully, you’re contacted for an interview of some sort.

Trust me, folks, getting that call is a BIG deal.  You’d better answer it.

My team and I will collect somewhere in the area of 100 to 150 resumes for every 1 opening we’re trying to fill for the client.  (Right now, we’re trying to fill about 225…you do the math.)  We’ll end up calling about 35 to 40% of the people who sent those resumes – just to do a screening.  At this point, we’re just checking to see if the candidates can put 3-4 words together to form a coherent sentence and can reasonably answer a few basic questions.  Get past that and…dun-dun-DUN…it’s Telephone Interview time!!!

Usually, about 75% of those folks we screen over the phone get a telephone interview.  That’s not too bad.

And now, it’s time for the hard part.

“Wait”, you say.  “Hard part?  Why is that hard?  I just have to talk to someone else over the phone and answer questions.  Big deal.  It’s not like that person can see me sitting on the couch in my pajamas, flipping channels on the muted TV.”

Ah, yes…continue to live the delusion, Unemployed One.

Only 1/3 of the candidates we interview via telephone will succeed and move to an interview with the local hiring managers.  That’s a mere 33% pass rate.

Still think it’s easy?

Welcome to the 67%, my friend.

If you want to get through your telephone interview successfully, here are some handy tips…and some mistakes to avoid.

Well, you’ve gotten a Telephone Interview…now what?

Take the time to prepare for your interview ahead of time.  Remember, this isn’t just a chat on the phone.  It’s a professional interview.

  • Know your resume/work history. You’ve taken the time to write a good resume (or paid someone to write it for you), so you’d better know what’s on it!
    • Actually study the resume so that you know your previous employment (company, positions, dates of employment) and can recall it easily.  There are few things as disconcerting to an interviewer as when the candidate doesn’t remember a job that was held just one year ago.
    • Think about some key accomplishments or interesting situations at your previous jobs and make some notes in the margin of the resume – just a few words to jog your memory.  This can come in handy while answering questions.
  • Know the job for which you are interviewing. Perhaps one of THE worst things you can say/ask in an interview is, “What job is this again?”
    • ERGLFLUFFRHMP!!  Yes, I actually make that sound if someone asks that question during an interview.  I’m the bitch who won’t answer the question at face value:  “It’s the position you applied for online.  You had the chance to read the job description twice and the recruiter you spoke with before speaking with me read that same job description to you.  Did you have difficulty reading or listening?”  OH!  YES I DID!
    • If you’re applying for so many jobs that you can’t keep track of what you’re applying for, you might want to scale it back a bit.  Either that or take a class at the local community college that teaches organizational skills.
  • A professional interview means you should respond professionally. You’re speaking to someone who will make a decision regarding your potential employment.  Your job is to give that person cause to say to herself or himself, “This candidate would be a great company representative and do the job well.”
    • Avoid slang at all costs.  You’re speaking with another professional, not your BFF.  It’s “Yes” not “Yeah”.  It’s “No” not “Nuh uh” or “Nope”.
    • Don’t swear.  Do I need to explain this?  (If you think I do need to explain it…well, I don’t know how to respond to that.)
  • A little positivity can do great things.  Since you’ll be asked questions about your previous employment, it’s very, very likely that you’ll be asked about likes and dislikes from your other jobs.
    • This is not your opportunity to bash your former boss or coworkers.  Sure, the boss may have been a jerk.  Okay, your coworkers may have been lazy riders of coattails.  Whatever.  You don’t go off on them in an interview.  That just makes me wonder what you’re going to say about people who work for MY company if you’re hired.  Don’t start me wondering!
    • You may have been doing mind-numbing, boring-as-hell work at your previous job.  Man, I’m sorry.  That really sucks for you.  However, a professional interview is not the time to say that the work you were doing at your previous job was mind-numbing and boring-as-hell!  Perhaps you simply felt as though you’d reached your potential and no longer found the tasks challenging.  As an interviewer, I know exactly what you’re saying (i.e., the work was mind-numbing and boring-as-hell), but I’m giving you major points for not actually saying it.
  • Know the difference between “specific” and “general” when talking about your previous experience. More importantly, be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the difference.  Most interviews these days are “Behavioral Interviews” – this means that interviewers want to know about your actions and reactions in specific types of situations.  The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
    • Listen carefully to the question to determine what type of answer is appropriate.  “Tell me about a time when…” or “Give me an example of…” usually begin an interviewer’s question when s/he wants you to speak of a particular instance in your previous experience.   Thus, your answer should be appropriate to that.  If an interviewer says, “Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond your job description to solve a problem for a customer,” you should NOT begin your answer with “Well, I will usually…” or “Oh, I do that for every customer…”  Really?!  Really?  Every customer?  Why were you never promoted to Supreme Senior Customer Service Team Leader of the Universe?
    • Like any good story, provide a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Make sure your answer is a STAR.  What was the Situation?  What was The task at hand?  What Action did you take?  What was the ultimate Resolution?
  • How well you listen is just as important as how well you speak.  There have been so many times when I’ve heard candidates give me beautifully articulate, highly detailed answers…that have absolutely nothing to do with the question I’ve just asked.  Boy, is that frustrating.  Boy, is that a colossal waste of my time.
    •  It’s perfectly okay to paraphrase the question in order to confirm what the interviewer is asking.  Personally, I would prefer that you do that and actually answer my question.  
    • It’s also perfectly okay to say, “Let me take a few seconds to think about that” rather than spouting off at the mouth.  If I have to use probing questions to get some additional information, that’s okay.  If I have to use probing questions to get you to answer my original question, that’s not okay.  Think before you speak.
    • Do not…I repeat…DO NOT interrupt or talk over the interviewer.  If you’re not listening to me when I’m interviewing you, why would I think that you wouldn’t do exactly the same thing with a coworker or a customer?
  • Good communication skills are essential for any job.  Whether you’re working in a call center, in a retail environment, in data entry, or a warehouse, you need to demonstrate that you can communicate well. 
    • Be articulate and use proper grammar.
    • Be professional throughout the interview.
    • Be enthusiastic about the process and the opportunity.
    • Be a good listener and respond appropriately to the questions asked.
  • Interviewers can’t see where you are, but they can hear.  Most of the time, even telephone interviews are scheduled ahead of time.  You know that it’s going to happen, so be prepared.
    • Make sure you’re in a quiet area that is free of distractions.  The interviewer should not have to wait for you to finish yelling at your kids to stop fighting.  The interviewer really shouldn’t hear you using or flushing the toilet.  (Yes, I’ve heard this on telephone interviews.)
    • Turn off your call waiting.  You shouldn’t answer your cell phone during an in-person interview.  So why would it be okay to put the interviewer on hold to answer another call?
    • You shouldn’t be driving while being interviewed.  I mean, seriously?

Being a good interviewee takes as much practice as being a good interviewer.  You should have confidence when you go into an interview, but you shouldn’t be over-confident.  You’re the expert when it comes to your previous experience and skills…demonstrate this expertise by studying yourself.

One of the things that many people just don’t think to do is to study interviewing techniques.  There are so many websites available that provide sample questions (and sample answers – good and bad) and/or techniques for interviewing.  But so few people use them.  Check and – both have excellent help sections.  There is also a very helpful blog that covers a lot of information about resumes as well as interview techniques.  (Please note that the links provided here are just samples.  A quick Google search for “Sample Interview Questions” will produce a plethora of resources.)

So…what are you going to do to get yourself out of the 67%?  Getting to that next step is up to you, you know.

4 comments on “Job interviewing is NOT for Dummies…so don’t be one (Telephone Interviews)

  1. Erin Saluta

    Excellent advise! Thank you for all these tips and pieces of advice in the job search process. Your techniques are laid out so well and are so simple its almost too obvious. Thanks for bringing the attention back to the basics.


  2. Darn, you should have written this last week! lol


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