How to Perfect the Phone Interview

Congratulations! You’ve made it over the first obstacle and your resume did what it was designed to do – it opened the door. In most cases, the first thing you see on the other side is…a telephone.  Think of this step as a phone “screen” more than a phone interview. The secret of the phone screen is that the purpose is to screen OUT candidates, not screen them IN (in most cases).  So, while you may be thinking a phone interview is a small and inconsequential conversation, your interviewer is spending this time trying to figure out why you WOULDN’T be a good fit and not necessarily why you WOULD.

As always though, The CFO Suite is here to help. Read on find to out how you can sail through this step.

Devote both space and time to this interview.
Take this seriously!  Phone interviews can be tough since its often harder to stand out and differentiate yourself.  This is also not a conversation to take in the car, on the sidewalk outside a café and definitely not inside a café. Find a quiet, distraction-free comfortable space. Plan for your kids or pets to be out of earshot for some time before and obviously during the interview. Also, don’t put your phone on speaker unless you have tested this and there’s no ambient noise.

Of course, make sure you have the interviewer’s phone number and email address handy just in case your call is disconnected.

Prepare like the professional you are.
Set yourself up for success by dressing as though you’re going into the office for this interview. You’ll be more alert and more focused than you would be in sweats. Your posture, smile and engagement will come through in your voice, so give yourself the best chance to impress. Have your resume in front of you and be prepared to speak to it but don’t read from it. Spend some time researching the company online.  Are they active on LinkedIn? Glassdoor? Review the job description again.  Use your intel to prep questions for the interviewer AND to tailor your answers to their needs.

Know what questions to expect and have your responses ready.

First don’t rush your answers, listen so you can hear any reactions, and don’t be afraid of silence as the interviewer is most likely writing notes or considering their next question. You can expect to be asked many standard questions like “tell me about yourself” and “why did you leave you last role?”, as well as “what interests you about this role, our company?” and “what about your experience makes you the ideal choice”.  You should also expect several behavioral questions, such as “tell me about a time when…” or “in the past, how have you handled…”. These will make up the meat of the interview and are your best chance to differentiate yourself. However, make sure you know enough about the role and company to predict some more specific questions.  Rehearse your responses or have notes available so they will be clear and concise.  Write down or remember the main points you want to get across. 

Take the opportunity to close at the end.
As the interview wraps, confirm the next steps and the timeline for them. More importantly, don’t miss the opportunity to make a lasting impression. Deliver a confident elevator pitch that includes discussion points from the interview, reaffirm why you’re their ideal candidate. Consider adding a closing question like “is there anything else you need to know about me to move me forward in this process?” or “is there anything that you have heard that makes you pause about moving me forward in this process?”.  Make sure the interviewer leaves with a solid understand of who you are, what you bring to the table and why you deserve an in-person interview.

Following up and following through is a key final step. Remember, your goal here is a second interview. Send a personalized thank you email and let the interviewer know you appreciate their time. Reinforce that you’re interested in this position, more so now that you have spoken to them, confirm the timeline for next steps and start preparing for Round Two!

The CFO Suite is a boutique consultative staffing and executive search firm specialized in management and executive level accounting and finance talent.  We boost the capabilities and capacity of your accounting and finance department, offering a unique ability to provide an integrated and comprehensive suite of services.

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