Six Tips for Tackling Any Phone Interview

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Editor's note: This article first appeared on our German site.

These days, cover letters, resumes and personal interviews are not the only things that candidates must pass to get a new job. There’s a good chance you may also have to undergo a phone interview as well.

According to executive search expert David Kitzinger of Badenoch and Clark in Luxembourg, the frequency of telephone interviews depends on the position the candidate is applying for. "If it’s a sales position, a phone interview is rare because appearance and performance are critical for the position. For back-office positions, it’s definitely more common," says Kitzinger. If there’s a great geographical distance between the candidate and the employer, a phone interview is more likely.

Usually, phone call interviews are shorter than a normal job interview and are used to screen out the unfitting candidates. Thus, the first impression is even more crucial here than in personal interviews -- if you screw up on the phone, you’re out.

To help you prepare for any phone interview, we’ve asked interview experts important questions and found the answers that you need to know.

1. What are the goals of the interviewers?

Before a phone interview, a candidate should think about whether he or she should get involved in such a process at all. "It must be taken seriously, and no information can be tapped," warns Mirja Linke from Deininger Consulting in Frankfurt. The executive search expert advises addressing three questions: "Who is calling, why he is calling and what is to be discussed." Sensitive topics -- such as salary -- should not be discussed prematurely in a phone interview. "I would be very careful -- especially with consultants," adds Linke.

2. Find a quiet space and use a landline

"You need a quiet space where you’ll be left undisturbed, without distractions, for a stress-free call," says Kitzinger. The call should not be taken in a crowded area, because the commotion will quickly become obvious to the interviewer, even over the phone. In addition, Kitzinger recommends using a landline: "Problems often occur on a cell phone, or the voice quality may be poor." This is particularly true for a conference call.

3. Give clear-cut answers

Since the employer won’t be able to see you and decipher your body language, phone interviews are more likely to be about technical questions than your personality. However, Linke says it’s still better to prepare for a personal interview. Candidates should know all the details of their resume and put themselves in a situation where the employer needs them. "You have to give precise answers," said Linke. "Candidates who are not well prepared get eliminated quickly.”

4. Tell success stories

Jan Veder from Huxley Associates in Frankfurt advises telling success stories from your career: "Say a couple sentences on a few sections of your resume and tell them what you have done particularly well." Many candidates tend to give very technical answers and repeat what’s on their resume already. In addition, an applicant should already know the needs of the potential employer. Every candidate should ask themselves, "What can I do for the employer?"

5. Prepare questions of your own

“There won’t be much time for you to ask questions. However, you should prepare a few questions anyway -- this will show you have genuine interest in the job," says Kitzinger. In general, candidates should demonstrate they’re proactive and ask how they can help to advance the application process.

Another tip from Veder is to ask the interviewer why his or her position is particularly enjoyable. By asking this, we learn the positive aspects of the company, and it gives the conversation a positive mood, which bounces back to the interviewer.

6. Are phone interviews the future?

Globalization, and the fact that more and more positions across national borders and even continents must be filled, speaks in favor of more phone interviews in the future.

Nevertheless, Linke takes a critical view of phone interviews. "The candidate may lose rather than win," observed Linke. Since the number of candidates due to demographic development will likely decrease, Linke expects the importance of phone interviews will decline. "But sometimes there is no other way," adds Linke.

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