By Don Goodman
So, your great resume has resulted in an interview. Excellent!
Before a company brings you in for a face-to-face interview, they will often have a phone interview.
This is typically done by the internal HR or the external recruiter, and the purpose is generally to do an initial screening.
To reduce the costs of recruiting, many firms are now using the phone interview as an in-depth review of your career, catching many job hunters off-guard, so you should be prepared for these as well.
Here are some tips so you can be at your best.
Simply put, your goal is to get an offer to move to the next round. This is true whether you are interested in this job or not.
If the job is not high on your list, then consider this a great opportunity to improve your skills. You might also hear something in the discussion that could change your mind so approach every interview as if this is your dream job.
Find out in advance who you will be interviewing with and how long you should allocate to the discussion. If you are speaking to an HR person and they say it will take 15 minutes, then it is a screening of candidates. If they tell you to reserve an hour or more, then you should look at this in the same way you would look at an in-person interview.
Tip: if you are speaking over Skype, make sure you know whether it is a video interview or not. Don’t be caught in your pajamas.
When I interviewed candidates, the first question I would ask is "What do you know about us?" If it was clear that the person did little research, it was very unlikely that the person would be selected.
There are a ton of resources, so go online and find out as much information as you can about the company. Look at their recent press releases. Know their revenue numbers and key competitors. Check out the backgrounds of executives, and look at any key statistics. If it is a startup company, then see if you can find out who the venture capital investors are and how much money they have raised.
Now, go to LinkedIn and check out the background of the person who is interviewing you as well as the background of the hiring manager and their staff. Here you can see how long they have been there, where they came from, and any connections you might have in common.
Especially for the hiring manager and their team, see what groups they belong to and any discussions they may have joined. This helps you identify their core areas of interest.
Be ready for everything from the expected "What are your strengths?" question to the tougher "How would you handle this situation?" question that is used to determine your experience and how you would approach a problem.
For hands-on technical jobs, employers will typically want to know about:
For Senior IT positions, you should expect questions exploring:
Many companies use an interview technique known as Behavioral Interviewing that asks you to give specific examples of situations they have encountered. An example might be "Tell me about a time you didn't meet a deadline, and how you handled it."
Some typical questions here might be:
The tougher kind of questions, for which Microsoft is famous, are those that are designed to see how you approach a problem. "How many manholes are in Manhattan?" is a good example of this, and you would need to think out loud about how you would determine an answer.
Two basic questions that you need to be ready for are:
Regarding leaving the company, no matter what, do not get into criticizing or finger-pointing. A generic answer like a management reorganization or downsizing is generally fine.
Regarding salary, they need to know whether you fit their budget, so you can’t really ignore this entirely. Nonetheless you do not want to price yourself too high or too low so a good answer is:
The job and the challenge are really what’s most important to me, and I would expect a competitive salary. What range have you budgeted?
When the actual interview occurs, remember these key tips:
Practice your phone interview. Do a mock interview with a loved one or friend.
MORE: For more about phone interviews, read A Top Recruiter's 9 Secrets for Nailing Your Phone Interview and 9 Keys to Phone Interview Success.
Don Goodman is a triple-certified nationally recognized career professional (Expert Resume Writer, Certified Career Coach, and Job Search Strategist) with over 20 years of experience helping thousands of people quickly land their next job. Don graduated from the Wharton School of Business and Stanford University’s Executive Program.
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