Phone interviews help employers decide which candidates are worth bringing in for a face-to-face interview. Phone interviews save employers time and money by giving them a quick snapshot of the job candidate's personality and qualifications. Phone interviews require a similar amount of preparation as formal interviews: employers often ask tough questions to test your responses.
Appointment vs. Surprise
Some employers call you to make an appointment for a phone interview, but others might surprise you, using the guise of asking for clarifications on your resume. A surprise call gives the employer the advantage; he has questions prepared and your resume in front of him. When you're applying for jobs, research the companies you've applied with and make a notes that you keep handy. Brush up on standard interview questions before you send the resume so that potential answers are fresh in your mind, such as your response to "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" That way, if you receive a surprise call, you'll be able to answer questions coherently. If the employer makes an appointment for the call, you have time to research the company and prepare answers to the typical questions in advance.
In phone interviews, employers typically expect the same level of professionalism that they do in face-to-face interviews. When it's time for a scheduled phone interview, remove all noisy distractions from the room that you're in, including children, pets and televisions; background noise isn't professional. If the employer calls and you can't avoid the noise, ask if there's a good time to call her back when you can talk without distractions. The interviewer typically will ask specific questions about your resume, so have one beside you if possible. The interviewer wants to learn more about your personality as well, but be careful making jokes; she can't see your facial expression or body language to determine if you're joking or serious.
Awkward Silences and Interruptions
Phone interviews are tricky when it comes to knowing when to start talking. Without watching the other person's body language, it's hard to know if he's paused for a breath or if he's finished with his statement and is waiting to hear yours. You don't want long, awkward silences, but you also don't want to interrupt the interviewer. When you think the interviewer has finished asking a question, pause for just a moment before answering. This gives you a chance to compose your answer while making sure he's finished with his question. A short pause is acceptable, whereas a long silence is not.
Phone interviews typically don't last as long as formal interviews. The employer is trying to weed out people she knows won't fit in with the company culture or the position, and she likely has several people to call. A phone interview may last up to half an hour, and some are much shorter. If the interviewer wants more information from you than she can gather in that time, she's likely to ask you in for a face-to-face interview. When the employer sets up an appointment for a phone interview, it's acceptable to ask how much time to set aside.
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.