Asking for and participating in a phone interview


A successful interview will make or break your candidacy for a position.  Here on the Career Incubator, we’ve discussed how to tackle in-person interviews, but we haven’t touched on phone interviews and how to succeed in them.

Why schedule a phone interview?

According to Jennifer Spragge, vice-president of human resources and strategic planning for Certified General Accounts of Ontario (CGA Ontario), employers “almost always want an [in-person] interview with the candidate.”

Employers can learn far more about the candidate, down to subtle hints such as body language, from an in-person interview. However, they may be open to a phone interview because of extenuating circumstances.  For example, some employers might not expect a candidate to travel to an interview if they live far away.

According to Ron Factor, an independent management consultant, if you are unable to come in for an in-person interview, explain why and offer to speak on the phone.  Be sure to “show interest, enthusiasm and try to sound like someone you’d like to work with.”

However, Spragge suggests that you should have a good reason for preferring a phone interview.  If you are able to participate in an in-person interview and just don’t want to, “that’s a red flag.”

Landing an interview

When trying to gain a phone interview with a company, the process is quite similar to gaining an in-person interview.  According to Factor, it is important to research the company to find out what they might want, and edit your resumé accordingly.  Factor recommends adding a photo to your resumé: “Even if you’re not gorgeous, it adds a human touch and makes you look more real.”

It is important to know who to send the resumé to and who to call to follow up with the company after applying.  Be sure to reference the ad, the position and your resumé when following up.

While on the phone, you can also use this opportunity to do more research about the company.  Make sure that you got the requirements for the position right, contacted the right person, and ask if there is another possible person to speak with at the company.  According to Factor, “Several points of entrée into an organization are better than one.”

How to conduct yourself during a phone interview

Prepare for a phone interview in the same way that you would prepare for an in-person interview.  Do all your research beforehand, think about possible questions and answers to them, and make sure should understand the company and the position.

Spragge says, “You would have visited our website, and looked around a little bit about our company…what we do, what is important to us, and what might be topical.”

Spragge says she also recommends calling in advance to find out more about the interview, it is appreciated by employers and can help you anticipate some of your answers in advance.

Delmarie Scherloski, vice-president of marketing and communications with CGA-Ontario, recommends holding the interview in a quiet place, so neither you nor the interviewer have to struggle to hear each other.  It is important to speak clearly and even a bit more slowly than you would in an in-person interview.

She also recommends that candidates “sit up or stand up when speaking so you have good energy in your voice.”

Finally, Scherloski recommends being well-organized and not shuffling your notes, since the noise and time delay in your answers will be noticed.

After the phone interview

Spragge counsels candidates to send an email to the interviewer, thanking them for their time.  Let the employer know you are very interested in the position and look forward to hearing from them.