How to Get a Great Job: Telephone Interviews


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A hiring company or recruiter may conduct the first interview over the telephone, as this is more time-efficient for the interviewer (and you, too!). Here is what a professional recruiter has to say about phone interviews:

“The trend right now is to do a phone screen first,” says Dionna Keels, a member of the SHRM [Society for Human Resource Management] staffing management expertise panel. “The goal is for the recruiter to be sure they’re comfortable bringing a person in to meet with the hiring manager, without wasting anyone’s time. Phone screens are almost a weeding-out process.”


Bernice Kao has two recommendations for speaking well on the phone: smile when you speak, and place a mirror where you can see it. Check your expression in the mirror when you answer the phone and throughout the interview to ensure you are speaking clearly and naturally—and putting that smile in your voice.

“A phone interview really is a first interview—so don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not important,” Keels stresses. “Do your preparation before the call. Do some research on the company you’re interviewing with.”

She encourages job interviewees to make it easier on the other person by holding a two-way conversation—which demonstrates your intelligence and personality. “Ask questions and find out more about the [job opening],” she recommends. “Your personal skills are very important over the phone. Talk openly about your experience and skills; have a real conversation.”


Whether you’re scheduling a telephone interview, a first interview, or a follow-up interview, make sure you get the details. If your contact doesn’t offer you the information, ask how many people you’ll be meeting with and write down everyone’s name and title.

Ask for an estimated time frame (will you be there one hour or all afternoon?), if you will be expected to take any tests (assessment, skills, or software tests).

Finally, make sure you understand where to show up, including the floor number and whom to ask for when you arrive.

Keels explains that what the telephone interviewer is after is proof that your work experience is a good match for the opening. “But they may also be doing a culture screen. They want to find out what you’re looking for and see if it’s a match,” she says. How do you “ace” a culture screen? Make it part of your pre-interview research. Keels says, “If you go to the company’s career page on their website, they may have videos and information that describe their culture. You may also find an HR professional through LinkedIn or the website, and call them up to explain that you’re interviewing for a position there and have a couple of questions about the corporate culture. Also, ask anyone you know who has ever worked there. Look for employee blogs…”

In a way, telephone interviews are easier than in-person interviews because you can refer to notes or an outline when answering (or asking) questions. Have a copy of the resume you sent in, and highlight the areas you’d like to talk about.

“Phone-plus-Video” Interviews

According to an article in Time magazine, job interviews via computerized video-chats are growing in popularity—especially when interviewing out-of-state job candidates. In “How Skype Is Changing the Job Interview,” Barbara Kiviat offers pointers for preparing yourself and your “set” to appear on-screen.

Library Resources

Does your public library offer classes or workshops in interviewing skills? What about one-on-one practice sessions or consultations? You may think such services aren’t part of a library’s mission, but many public libraries are partnering with local job service organizations, finding skilled volunteers, or training librarians to help with steps like interviewing so that they can help out the job-hunters in their communities. So call your library, visit its website, or stop in to see what help it might offer with interview prep, planning and practice.

Best in Show — Interviewing

Acing the Interview: How to Ask and Answer the Questions That Will Get You the Job
by Tony Beshara (New York: AMACOM, 2008).

301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions
by Vicky Oliver (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2005).

The First 60 Seconds: Win the Job Interview before It Begins
by Dan Burns (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2009).

The Job Interview Phrase Book: The Things to Say to Get You the Job You Want
by Nancy Schuman (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2009).



book cover: How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To HandbookThis article is adapted from the book How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To Handbook by Editors of the American Library Association published by ALA Editions.




Image credit:

Woman on telephone by RandyKashka




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