Versage English Tutoring Service
May 2015 Newsletter ©
How to Prepare for Phone Interviews
As a Business English tutor in New York, I often help students prepare for job interviews. Sometimes my students are doing their first job interviews in English. This newsletter focuses on tips for preparing for phone interviews. In my June newsletter, I’ll give more tips for in-office interviews.
The telephone interview is usually the first step a company takes to “narrow” their selection of job candidates. That’s why it is called a screening interview. You need to pass this step and be selected for in-office interviews. It’s important to prepare for common questions.
“What is your visa status?” is often one of the first questions you will get after introductions. Even if this information is provided on your resume, the interviewer will ask. Have the necessary documents available in case you need to refer to them. The phone interviewer is often not the hiring manager who makes the final decision. The phone interviewer is usually a Human Resources (HR) staff person, or a lower-level manager familiar with the job requirements. They will ask specific questions to select the right job candidates. If the interviewer is from HR, he/she may not be able to discuss the specific details of the job. That will come later. Be positive – show your energy – answer questions but do not give long answers. The screening interviewer will ask for more detailed information if needed. You can check if more information is needed by asking “Would you like me to go into more detail?”
An important preparation step is to have an “elevator speech” prepared and ready if the interviewer asks you to describe your experience and job interests. The interviewer may ask the common question “Tell me about yourself”. The elevator speech is your own short introduction to the interviewer. You talk about yourself, your education, why you are interested in the job and the specific skills you have that show what value you can offer to the hiring company. If English is your second or third language, preparing and practicing your speech is really important. You want to be able to do it naturally, don’t read it. A well-organized “elevator speech” creates a strong first impression that can be very important in getting selected for the next step, an in-office interview.
If you search Google or YouTube using ‘elevator Speech’ you’ll find many examples and tips to organize and prepare your “elevator speech”. Here are some examples:
http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/files/163926.pdf (downloadable PDF with instructions),
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJMhMDKZmq8 (very good tips, audio only).
First, review the job description carefully and make a list of questions for the phone interviewer. Think about what skills you have that are the best match for the job description and make notes about specific experience you have that you can mention during the phone interview.
Be prepared for these questions:
- why did you apply for this job?
- what do you know about our company? (Prepare before the
interview,use internet search – Google News is a good source
for recent business article). Look for news about company expansion, mergers, new products/services, financial results, etc.).
- if you have a job and are looking for a new one – why are you looking for a new job?
- if you left a job – why did you leave your last job?
- what are your strengths/weaknesses? For strengths, describe your skills and experience that fit the job description (industry/sales experience, managing staff, bookkeeping software, Word, Excel, PowerPoint. For weaknesses, avoid making a negative statement like “I don’t handle pressure well”. If you do give a weakness, always provide a positive statement that shows how you are trying to improve.
There are many interview resources (Google, YouTube and Bing) that give advice for answering these questions.
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
- if the job description is not clear, ask the interviewer “what are the most important skills required to be successful in this position?” Listen carefully and give examples of how your experience and skills meet the job requirements.
- if you have done research on the company (and you should), you will be able to ask some excellent questions. Keep those questions positive. For example, asking about expansion plans, new company technologies, what the key initiatives are for the current year, etc.
- Of course, ask what the next steps are, but do not make this your first question for the interviewer. If the answer is a few weeks, ask if you can call the interviewer (in 1-2 weeks) to check on the status.
Make sure that you get the name and email of the interviewer, so you can follow up with a “thank you” email. Do this within 24 hours. Treat the phone interview the same as you would an in-office interview.
Further resources on this topic:
See this link for great tips to prepare for difficult interview questions. For example,
“Tell me about a challenge that you faced in your last job and what you did to meet that challenge?”.
In my next newsletter, I will provide some tips to prepare for in-office job interviews. Your comments are appreciated and please share this blog post with others if you liked it!