Looking for a D.C. Marketing Job? First, You Need to Nail the Phone Interview

by Susan Mullin

TorchLight’s experienced marketing and communications recruiters share their best tips for a successful first interview

virtual interview

You’re an experienced marketing and communications professional looking for a new job opportunity in the Washington region. You have agonized over every word on your resume, networked like crazy, spent hours searching for openings, even more time submitting applications, and now you have landed an initial phone interview. You breathe a sigh of relief – your hard work is paying off! But don’t relax too quickly. The phone interview may seem like a small piece of the overall process, but it shouldn’t be overlooked.

In many ways, a phone interview can actually be more difficult than an in-person interview. In an age of emails, texts and tweets, having to talk to anyone on the phone, much less for an interview, can be daunting. On the phone, you lose all comforts of non-verbal communication.

Fortunately, you don’t have to dread your next phone interview. Here are some tried-and-true tips to nail your next phone interview.

Treat it like an in-person interview

You wouldn’t show up to an interview in your gym clothes, and you shouldn’t conduct a phone interview fresh out of bed in your pajamas. How you feel impacts your attitude—and that impacts how you present yourself (even by phone). Prepare as you would for an in-person interview: be ready with talking points, a copy of your resume, and a notepad to jot down questions. You should also research the company in advance, look up the interviewer on the company website or LinkedIn to learn a little more about him or her, and have a good understanding of the role. If you approach it as “just a phone interview,” chances are you’ll be exactly right—it will be just a phone interview with no hope of advancing to the next step.

Make a Good First Impression

Answering the phone with a short “Hello” is not the best approach. Introduce yourself with “Hello, this is ____________,” so the caller immediately knows they’ve reached the right person. (It also makes you sound professional.) Be sure to express how much you have been looking forward to the conversation. It also never hurts to thank the interviewer in advance for taking the time to speak with you. You certainly don’t need a script, but having a few potential opening lines prepared in advance will make you feel more at ease.

Remove Distractions

This may seem like it goes without saying, but it’s a common mistake. Think about the timing and location for your call in advance. As the phone is ringing is not the time to frantically search for a quiet spot to take the call. Scout out a place free from distraction and background noise—and that has good reception if you plan on using a cell phone. Get to this location a few minutes before the scheduled call time so you can gather your thoughts and be prepared to give your full attention to the caller.

Be Concise

Phone interviews are shorter than in-person interviews, and you will need to adjust your answers accordingly. You have a shorter amount of time to state your case;  brevity is paramount. This doesn’t come naturally to most people, especially on the phone when you might be avoiding any awkward silence. To ensure you keep things concise, practice your answers in advance. It may even help to record yourself. Listen for words and phrases that are unnecessary, and cut any examples that don’t directly speak to the role at hand. Editing yourself will actually allow you to answer more questions over the course of the interview.

Take Good Notes

Make sure you have the ability to jot down notes while on the call. If you can, consider using a hands-free device or headphones so you have the use of your hands to write things down. Conversations move quickly on a phone call – you don’t want to miss any important details. Being invisible to your interviewer is actually one of the biggest assets of phone interviews; take advantage by jotting down notes, questions, and talking points during the call. This information can become invaluable if you advance to an in-person interview.

Stick the Landing

The only thing more nerve-racking than starting a phone call is knowing how to end one. Listen for cues that the interviewer is wrapping up, and avoid rambling for the sake of lengthening the call. You can’t address everything in a single call. Accept that limitation, and leave some things for further discussion during an in-person interview. Conclude the call with appreciation, thanking the interviewer for the opportunity. Finally, as appropriate with any kind of interview, be sure to follow-up with a quick email thanking them for their time and expressing your interest in the role.

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Posted in , Interview Tips, Job Search Tips