Our team has been busy with phone interviews over the last couple of weeks, and we have found that although some candidates handle the questions with ease, more often than not, candidates struggle through the process and become stuck trying to find the "right" response when put on the spot. Now, this is not to say that these are "bad" candidates — they wouldn't have been selected for phone screens if they were. It's more that some people do not seem prepared for typical interview questions or do not make the most of their opportunity to make a good impression.
My advice for improving your interview performance is to put yourself in the employer's shoes and think about what they are trying to achieve.
If you are selected for phone screening, it's likely the recruiter has reviewed your resume and thinks you have the right background or skill set to do the job, but they want to find out more information to see if you are suitable. They may be looking at things like personality, style and communication skills that you cannot necessarily tell from a resume. For example, when I phone screen for sales roles, I'm looking for people with good communication skills who come across with energy and build rapport over the phone.
Even though they are not trying to win my business, I want to be able to imagine that they are someone I would buy from. You may look like a great fit on paper, but if you do not show the right attributes in a phone interview it is unlikely you will get a second chance to impress.
So now that you have approached the phone interview with the right attitude and are mindful of the impression you are making, how do you blitz the interview questions? Again, the first step is to listen to the question carefully and think from the interviewer's perspective — what are they actually asking? What kind of answer are they looking for?
A fairly standard interview question is, "What motivated you to apply for this role?" In this case, we're really looking for something specific about the job or the company that has attracted you to the role, not just that you need a job! Likewise, with the question, "Tell me about a time when your communication skills made a difference to a situation," this is a chance to demonstrate your strength in communication with a specific example. The trick is to listen to the question, gauge what they are actually asking, and respond clearly and concisely with examples to back up your statements.
Need help deciphering interview questions? Let us know what trips you up in phone interviews.