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Phone Interviewing Success

Many candidates do not think of phone conversations with employers as interviewing. "It wasn't an interview, it was just a phone call." It was still an interview. And it will affect your potential career with an employer. So treat it with all the respect due a full interview.

Three Types of Telephone Interviews

There are three basic types of telephone interviews:

Common Phone Interview Questions

In preparing for your phone interview, it helps to know in advance what types of interview questions may be asked by the interviewer. The phone interview is typically (although not always) the first step on the way to an in-person interview. However, in some cases (especially when distance is involved), it may be the only form of interviewing you will be faced with in your job search. Job offers are sometimes made solely on the basis of the phone interview (or interviews). So don't go in with the expectation that the phone interview will, of necessity, require a round of on-site interview. This is especially more common in the case of internship hiring, where interviews can take place solely over the phone.

Review the following list of questions, including the links to the details on each question, to be ready for your phone interview:

Tell me about yourself.

This is a pretty common phone interview question, since it is open-ended and breaks the ice, giving you the opportunity to provide a quick synopsis of your background.

How has your education prepared you for your career?

Another introductory phone interview question, this provides you with the opportunity to talk about your education as it relates to your chosen career path (or at least the career for which you are interviewing).

What is your greatest accomplishment?

A tough interview question to answer unless you have thought it through in advance. Consider your greatest accomplishment not in terms of your mother's perspective, but in terms of the interviewer's perspective.

Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How did you resolve it?

This interview question is intended to find out how well you deal with conflict, more as a way to screen out candidates than screen in.

What is your greatest strength?

Yes, that classic interview question. Hint: it should be about your strength(s) as it relates specifically to the job.

What is your greatest weakness?

Another common phone interview question, yet most candidates answer it incorrectly. Make sure you take the time to prepare properly for it.

If I were to ask one of your professors (or a boss) to describe you, what would he or she say?

Effectively asking for a reference, but directly from you. Caution: be aware that the follow-up to this question may be a direct reference check, so make sure your answer is consistent with what the person would actually say. If you have a letter of recommendation, keep it sitting in front of you and feel free to quote directly from it.

What qualities do you feel a successful manager should have?

The interviewer is trying to smoke out what you do/do not like about particular managers to see how flexible you are in adapting to different management styles.

What questions do you have for me?

Ask questions about the role. And only ask questions where the answers are not available through basic Internet research. Do your homework in advance of the phone interview.

Technical Phone Interviews

The phone interview is often used to screen for specific technical qualifications of the role. So if the person conducting the interview is at a peer technical level, this is typically the type of interview being conducted. You need to be able to actively problem solve the technical questions that take place within the call. The questions can be more general, such as "Do you have experience with _____?" or "What has been your experience with _____?" to more specific, such as "Tell me how you would do _____?" or "Give me an example of a time when you used _____."

While you can prep somewhat for technical phone interviews, you need to have a solid tech foundation to be able to answer quickly. Reviewing some of the standard technical questions for your career and/or industry will be helpful additional advance prep for this type of phone interview.

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Telephone Interview Preparation