Phone Interviewing: Best Practices in the High Tech Industry

Since a phone interview is typically a screening tool, your goal is to be invited to meet in person with the employer. Some high tech companies phone screen routinely, while others IT companies phone screen to overcome potential concern. Do you know which is the case? Either way, put forth your very best effort.

Your objective is to convince the interviewer that you are worth inviting in for a face-to-face meeting.

Phone Interviewing Tips:

Preparation – Before the Call:

• Know the job for which you are interviewing.

• Focus and preparation for a phone interview are as important as for a live interview.

Do your homework first – take an hour or so to review background information on the company. Most companies offer product information and management profiles on their web site, along with corporate accomplishments, channel information, etc. Search for common ground both in domain and product experience, and general background – be prepared to reference technical information, and to identify the points in your background that are most relevant.

Be sure you are in a place where you can concentrate without distraction, can hear and be heard clearly, and can take notes and read.

Some experts say you’ll sound more professional if you look and feel as if you’re in a live interview. Consider dressing the part for the phone interview.

This is not an informal chat – treat it as an Interview — have the following at hand:

• Your resume, so you can remember highlights of your software and IT experience and accomplishments.

• A list of professional accomplishments and results delivered, to remind yourself of key points you want to cover with the interviewer.

• Outlines of stories that demonstrate your competencies and problem-solving abilities.

• A list of intelligent questions you might want to ask the interviewer, specific to the company and to the position based upon what you hear in the interview. Keep in mind you will be assessed by the questions you ask as well as the answers you give.

• Have your calendar ready for a future face-to-face interview with available times and dates.

Phone Call Mechanics – The Scheduled Call:

• Busy people, hectic schedules, you know the drill… Phone interviews don’t always take place right on time, therefore it is advisable not to box yourself into a tight schedule, but rather leave “slush” time of ½ hour on each side of the scheduled call.

The Phone Interview – Content and Context:

A phone conversation does not afford the ability to convey or interpret body language or facial expressions. Your challenge is to communicate effectively and make a personal connection. Everything depends on your articulation and tone.

• Mentally prep yourself. Be prepared with answers to the most common of questions, i.e., the dreaded open-ended “tell-me-about-yourself” – have a tight sense of what you want to convey.

• Be enthusiastic, but do not dominate the conversation.

• Use concise, fact-filled sentences and phrases. Do not ramble or over explain. Conclude responses with “check-back” phrases such as, “Does that answer your question?” and “Is that what you’re looking for?”

• Don’t feel you have to fill in silences. If you’ve completed a response, but the interviewer hasn’t asked the next question, don’t start babbling just to fill in airtime. Instead, ask a question of your own related to your last response.

• Show that you’ve done your homework by asking a few intelligent questions based on factual information you have obtained about the opportunity. Demonstrate industry knowledge by asking thoughtful questions. For example, “The IT industry seems to be moving toward [emerging software technology]. How does your company plan to compete?”

• DO NOT ask self-serving questions about salary, benefits and vacation time!

After the Interview – Follow-Up:

• The interview is behind you – if you came away with clear feedback and a defined path forward that’s ideal, but this won’t always be the case. Any feedback short of “sorry, you’re not what we’re looking for just now” leaves an open door to initiate further communication.

• Follow up with a brief email of thanks, including a few short lines that re-enforce your strong fit for candidacy, and your sincere interest. Do copy your high tech recruiter and remember you are being judged on your every action – spelling and grammar count, as does content.

Good Luck!

Joanne Faille

Blackbird Technical Staffing



Guest Blogger, Joanne Faille of Blackbird Technical Staffing, a High Tech Recruiting Firm located in Beverly, MA.

Prior to having founded Blackbird Technical Staffing in 2002, Joanne has 20+ years in the high tech sector.  Joanne’s SQA management career has trained her to focus on career goals and personal satisfiers of her clients.  She brings to Blackbird Technical Staffing unique and critical dual perspectives, having been both a high-tech career professional and a top-performing high-tech recruiter — with a passion for both. 

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