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Phone Interview: How to Rock It and Get the Job

On the phone. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper/Army
On the phone. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper/Army

As president of Powerhouse Planning LLC, I've heard my fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly in phone interviews.

This past week, I was pumped about a phone interview I was going to have with a potential candidate who was also a military spouse. She rocked on paper. 

Then she completely "bombed" the phone interview.

She was not a bad candidate. She was just really unprepared. It got me thinking that maybe people in our community just don't know better. So for all military spouses out there doing the job hunt, I hope these tips prepare you for future phone interviews.

Before the interview:

Consider dressing up. Even though you will be on the phone, the more professional you look, the more professional you'll usually feel. Plus, in the rare case it ends up being a video interview, you are prepared.

Go to the bathroom! It's pretty bad when in the middle of an interview you think your phone is on mute, but little do you know your interviewer is hearing Niagara Falls gush into the toilet.

Remove all disturbances. If you have kiddos, pets, in-laws, etc. that are loud and rowdy, make sure they are out of the room and there is a good sound barrier so you and the interviewer aren't distracted.

Have water readily available. Don't gulp and get crazy, but just in case you need it, make sure it's there.

Prepare to give a verbal overview of your resume. In most cases, the interviewer will ask you to highlight the main professional accomplishments in your career. Keep it clear and concise, and ensure your points have the "wow" factor.

Make sure you are prepared to share your strengths and weaknesses as an employee. Find the balance of not bragging too much and not throwing yourself under the bus too much. You should have honest strengths and weaknesses to share. I always recommend sharing how you are working on your weaknesses professionally.

Research the company! There is nothing more frustrating than being on a phone call with a potential candidate and discovering they haven't even checked out the company. Be assured, the company has checked you out, so be courteous and do the same.

Research the interviewer. Yes, I'm encouraging you to gently stalk the person who will be interviewing you. The best stalk site recommendation I can give you is LinkedIn (or the company website if personnel is listed there). Find out something about the person you can relate to and prepare to work that into the conversation. Be casual though when working it into the convo ... gently stalking and being a stalker are two different things.

During the interview:

Be on time! There really isn't any excuse for being the slightest bit late. Consider "early" as what they mean by "on time" in a phone interview.

Answer professionally when you accept the call. I remember when I worked back in housing at a university, I called a potential residential assistant to offer him a position and he answered the call, "Waz-up?"

At that point, I apologized that I had the wrong number and hung up. Little did that young man know he just threw away a full-ride ticket for college. Same applies in the workplace. When people hear your voice, tone, etc., they see you either fitting into their workplace environment, or not.

Have questions about the company and the job prepared to ask. The more detailed, the better.

Be prepared to talk money. They might ask your salary range or expectations. Make sure you can give at least a little insight.

Explain what you are doing. In the event you are taking long pauses to take notes, make sure you inform them you are jotting down a few things. There aren't many things more awkward than dead silence and the interviewer wondering if the call got dropped, or you dropped off.

As the interview concludes, make sure to ask about the way ahead. Find out what their timeline is for hiring the position and when you should expect to hear from them. Personally, I love when people ask this, as I usually see this as an indication of their confidence.

After the interview:

Send a handwritten thank-you note. I'm not saying you need to go all old school and send a pigeon, but from the interviewer's perspective, there is something to be said about receiving a handwritten thank-you note from the person you interviewed.

A written thank you is a lost art and trust me, it gets noticed -- and appreciated -- nowadays.

Follow-up with an email. I find it totally acceptable to also drop an email a week or so after the interview, and thank them for their time. You can also use it as a chance to share other thoughts you've had since interviewing (specific qualities you would bring to the team, items needing clarification, etc.). Be prepared for the likely event you don't receive a response; keep it short and simple.

More than anything, be yourself! The main goal of a phone interview is to determine whether the company can see you as a fit. And if so, you're likely to get a follow-on in-person interview.

Keep in mind the competition for jobs is tight right now. There are a ton of overqualified, underutilized people (especially military spouses and veterans) looking for work.

Make sure if you are serious about looking for work, you're also serious about taking the time to get your "game face" ready for the initial phase of getting the job -- the phone interview. Good luck! Perhaps our paths will cross in a future phone interview, and I hope you're wildly successful in the meantime!

-- Jessica Bertsch is a proud Coastie wife and mom of a 3-year-old. In her "spare" time, she runs Powerhouse Planning LLC. She can be reached at jbertsch@powerhouseplanning.com .

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