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Know what to say and how to say it:
Tips on preparing for phone interviews

By Paula Delos Reyes, Contributor

#PhoneInterviewtips #JobInterviewTips #CandidateGuide #JobHuntingTips #Jobs #JobInterview

When a recruiter calls: Tips for job interviews done over the phone

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way we work. Times have changed and the conditions for finding jobs and even its availability may have changed. Rest assured that we at Xcruit are dedicated to connecting employees and employers, and supporting the Filipino workforce in every way that we can.

Scouting for a job in 2020 means you will have to conduct most of your interviews over the phone or video conferencing apps such as Zoom. Initial assessment interviews done through the phone are now the norm. While some may find this agreeable, it may also put you in a weird spot because the power of expressing yourself through non-verbal communication will not be at your disposal.

Without face-to-face interaction, you might not be able to display the warmth, the confidence and the joie de vivre that you usually have in an on-site interview. Here, we’re going to teach you how to nail that phone interview and make it impossible for them not to give you a follow-up call.

How to prepare for a phone interview

Preparing for a phone interview is slightly different from preparing for a traditional on-site, face-to-face interview. There is no need to practice your answers and body language in front of a mirror. Rather, you will have to put more emphasis on your tone of voice and conversational skills. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Work on your communication skills. Are you speaking clearly? Do you sound like you’re determined to land this job? Do you sound like the type of person who would excel in this position? These are questions you’d want to ask yourself. Generally, speaking with clarity and enthusiasm is already half the battle won in a phone interview.

2. Smile! There’s something about smiling and having a positive attitude that still radiates even through the phone. It will liven up the interview and give the impression that you’re an engaging person to talk to.

3. Find a good spot. You want to find a good spot in the house where you can conduct the interview without disruption. Find a nice, quiet place with excellent reception. And if that means conducting the interview from your garage, then go for it.

4. Do your research. Show your interviewer that you’ve done your homework on the company and want to be part of it. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to look up your interviewer on LinkedIn or Facebook and see what type of person he or she is. You also might want to look for common interests and acquaintances, as this will come in handy when you try to build rapport.

5. Have notes ready in front of you. This is a clear benefit that you should take advantage of, since this is probably the only kind of interview where you can have ‘open notes’. So jot down your answers to common interview questions and don’t forget to customize them depending on the job you’re applying for (i.e. you would want to highlight your people management strengths for a managerial post, or that you can work with minimal supervision for a work-from-home job) . The only challenge is to read them without coming across as you’re reading them; for this, you must practice.

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How to engage a job interviewer without face time

The main (only?) disadvantage to having your interview over the phone is that you can’t relay the same manner of confidence often found in body language. While this holds true especially for phone interviews without face time, you can still express that confidence in your voice.

With that in mind, what you want to do aside from practicing your tone is to stick to a bunch of key words and key phrases that are going to engage your interviewer and make them more interested in hearing what you have to say.

Practice saying phrases like “I’m good at,” or “I’m skilled at,” or “my strength is,” and follow it up with skills you think will be crucial for the job like problem solving, time-management, English language fluency, etc.

You also want to be concise. Remember, your interviewer doesn’t see you; chances are you’ll lose their interest with long and winding answers. Break down your strengths in single sentences before backing them up with real experiences. You can start with a straightforward sentence, and follow it up with a story. Something like:

“I’m very good at working under pressure. There was one instance when my team and I were tasked with an extremely difficult project scheduled to go live the next day. With the right resources and coordination with an amazing team, I was able to lead us to finishing the project hours before the deadline,” or something to that effect.

More importantly, make that phone interview a two-way street. Greet your interviewer with a “how are you doing today?” and don’t hesitate to ask questions about the job opening and the company. This will help you establish a good rapport with your interviewer and show your interest in the job.

The best way to respond to “tell me about yourself” over the phone

There are inevitable interview questions that you should be prepared for, and perhaps the most quintessential interview question of them all is “tell me about yourself.”

This is a fairly simple open-ended question that allows recruiters to initially gauge if you are a good fit for the position you’re applying for. This is usually the first question they throw at you, and your answer can make or break your entire screening process.

But don’t overthink it. To create the best answer, simply use this three-part formula: what are you currently doing, what have you done in the past, and what are you looking for in the future. For instance, if you are a customer service representative preparing for call center interview questions, you can say:

“I am a senior call center representative with 2 years of experience handling calls in all aspects of the healthcare industry, from member benefits to claims and disputes. I have spent the last six years developing my skills as a CSR for The Health Company Inc., where I have achieved several performance milestones and was promoted in January. I love solving customer problems and building rapport with our members. Although I love my current role, I feel that I’m now ready for a more challenging assignment, and this position really excites me.”

There are a few other commonly asked interview questions that you need to prepare for, including “why do you want to work for us?” and “what makes you think you’re a good fit for this post?”, and even difficult interview questions like “what would you say your weaknesses are?” and “why did you leave your last job?” could be squeezed in there. There is no harm in preparing for all these questions. After all, you can have notes.

Study these questions and concoct the best answer for the company and position that you’re applying for. Write down your answers and have them in front of you during the phone call. When you are ready to apply for jobs, or you want to find work from home jobs, check out the career opportunities from companies that are hiring through Xcruit.

Keep these job interview tips in mind and make sure to practice before your scheduled phone interview. We also encourage you to check out our careers blog to get more more helpful job advice in navigating our new normal.

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Need more helpful job advice in navigating our new normal? Check out our careers blog.