Traditionally, virtual interviews (usually phone interviews) were used to conduct a pre-screening for an in-person interview and to answer any questions not addressed in the resume. But, today, phone interviews are also replacing some in-person “first interviews.” You may be asked the same questions on the phone you might have expected would be asked in a face-to-face interview. So prepare like you would for an in-person interview.
The phone interview can actually be an advantage — it focuses on content, not appearance. What matters is what you say and how you say it. Phone interviews can be an advantage for jobseekers concerned about age discrimination or being judged by how they look. Approximately 70% of what we communicate is shared nonverbally. However, in a phone interview, all you have to rely on are verbal cues and context.
Another advantage to a phone interview is that you can take notes. You can also use the information you have prepared ahead of time more extensively than in a face-to-face interview. (However, do not read from your notes as this can come across to the interview as monotone and boring!) Create a cheat sheet with your key accomplishments, have your resume handy, and prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. The cheat sheet should have specific metrics and accomplishments on it (detail the numbers, percentages, and dollar amounts while being able to speak to how those were achieved).
One disadvantage of a phone interview is you cannot use the interviewer’s non-verbal cues to judge if you should keep talking or not. To compensate for this, it is best to keep your answers brief: allow the interviewer to ask follow-up questions if he or she wants more information.
Phone interviews are huge time-savers for hiring managers. Some phone interviews are very brief — designed to make an initial introduction, clarify issues on the resume, or discuss the position. Phone interviews are sometimes called “screening interviews.” That is because they are often used to “screen out” candidates before beginning the first round of in-person interviews.
One Forbes article estimated that up to half of screening interviews take place over the phone, not in person. This makes sense. Phone interviews do not require as much time and can be conducted outside the company’s normal work hours, which can be helpful for certain job applicants.
The most common types of information generated from a phone interview are:
•    Credential checks — the most common questions asked in phone interviews are those that corroborate facts or information on an application or résumé — or that fill in the blanks for missing information.
•    Experience check — if the hiring manager has determined you meet the requirements of the position, the phone interview may be used to verify the experience (asking specific questions about position responsibilities and accomplishments).
•    Predictive information — the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Behavioral types of questions ask how you handled a challenge in the past, giving the interviewer insight into how you would perform on this job.
Be alert and prepared during your job search for that pre-screen interview call. Not all phone interviews are scheduled in advance. It is better to have the call go to voicemail and call the interviewer back than to perform poorly in an interview you are not prepared for. Most hiring managers do not expect you to be available at a moment’s notice and many are willing to schedule a call for another time. However, be aware that they may never get back to you if they find suitable candidates before your scheduled call.
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