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Before the Phone Interview

The phone interview takes place when your documents – résumé and cover letter – have been screened. As a rule, job applicants either upload their résumé, cover letter, and other subsidiary documents onto the company’s website or email them to its Human Resources managers or recruiting agencies.

The Résumé

It goes without saying that your résumé is an essential part of your job search toolkit. A well-constructed and well-written résumé guarantees that you will be chosen from the applicant pool for a personal conversation on the phone. To construct your résumé correctly, you should roughly divide it into four sections: Education, Work Experience, Skills, and Achievements.

Education – Listing your degrees is important, because most of the positions for which job seekers apply require them to hold some degree in addition to their high school diploma. The order in which you should enumerate the institutions where you studied goes from the lowest to the highest. Start with your bachelor’s degree, which can be of Arts (BA degree), Science (BS degree), or Fine Arts (BFA degree). Next to your degree you should mention the name of the institution that accredited it to you and the years of studies towards its completion.

If you hold the master’s degree, put it on the list after your bachelor’s degree. There is a variety of master’s degrees you can obtain: A Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS, MSc), Master of Research (MRes), Master by Research (MPhil), Master of Studies (MSt). There are also specialized and professional master’s degrees such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Public Health (MPH), among others. Your master’s degree also should be accompanied by the name of the institution where you obtained it and the dates of your studies. You may also add the information about the area of your research and the title of your thesis.

The same information should follow your PhD degree, if you received it, together with the area of your research, the title of your thesis, your thesis supervisor’s name and the names of your thesis readers. You can also put on the list your Associate degrees and any courses you completed and certificates you received to move your career forward.

Work Experience – In this section, you should list all your jobs you have done for the last 10 or 15 years in a reversed chronological order. It is also crucial to mention the positions which you held within various companies where you were employed so that your new employers could clearly see your career trajectory. Dates of the employment in each company should also be indicated. Equally important is to include a summary of the responsibilities that you shouldered in each of your workplaces, because your potential employers should ascertain whether your work experience and the duties that you carried out in the past will match your new role. Here is an example of how a position should be presented on your résumé:

Content Writer (January 2017 – Present)

E-Commerce Company A-Z, City, State

Wrote content for the company’s websites;

Conducted research on stocks, commodities, and currencies.

Skills – Compiling a list of your skills is highly recommended, because your future employers will definitely want to know what skills your acquired during your education and working years and how well you managed to employ them for the benefit of your former employers. In creating the list of skills, think not only about the qualities you developed in your previous workplaces but also whether they are required in your new role. To understand what qualities your potential employers want to see in their employees, read attentively the description of the job for which you are applying.  More often than not, a job advertisement enumerates traits and skills desirable for the advertised position. If this is not the case, you will still be able to figure out what skills the employers are looking for in job candidates from the description of the responsibilities required by the new role.

Accomplishments – When you are enumerating your former job duties, make references also to your achievements, because it is achievements rather than duties themselves that bespeak your success. Everyone can be assigned certain duties, but few can perform them to perfection. If, while talking about your duties, you mention that your team under your supervision designed a new application, do not stop at that.  Your skills will shine through more brightly, if you add that this application helped generate more traffic to your company’s website and increased its revenue. 

Your résumé is incomplete without your Contact Information. Do not forget to write your snail mail and email addresses along with your telephone numbers. Your prospective employers should know how to get hold of you, if your résumé captures their attention and they want to invite you for the telephone interview. Sometimes, it can be a good idea also to provide a summary statement about yourself on your résumé, before you go into detail. Considering how flooded with résumés recruiters become once they advertise a position, you will immediately draw their attention to your résumé, if you provide the summary statement about yourself at the top of it. Clearly communicate to your prospective employees what contribution you can make to their company and, in so doing, ignite their interest in your candidacy.

The Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Some companies deploy a SuccessFactors applicant tracking system (ATS) to weed out unfitting job candidates at the initial stage of their hiring process. If the company for which you applied uses this method of document screening, your résumé, cover letter, and application form will be scanned and analyzed by the ATS, when you upload them to its website. Only if the system evaluates your documents as acceptable will you be invited for a phone interview with its Human Resources manager. Composing your résumé properly is, therefore, crucial for your success in the pre-employment process. Do not hurt your chances of being called for the interview. Send your résumé to specialists’ perusal and revision. Restructured by recruitment specialists, your résumé will successfully pass the evaluation of the ATS.


The Telephone Interview

After your résumé and other documents have been screened and selected for further communication, you will receive an invitation for the Phone Interview. The aim of the initial phone interview is to short-list candidates for the position. The phone interview is a convenient method of screening many candidates quickly and cost-free. Inviting every prospective employee to a face-to-face interview without winnowing out at least the most unsuitable of them would be more time consuming and expensive. In their phone conversation with applicants, recruiters thus get to know them better and decide with whom to move forward in the recruitment process.

The telephone interview is straightforward and focuses on the job candidate’s résumé: education, work experience, skills, and achievements. Before you start your phone conversation with recruiters, think of all milestones in your education and career that you had, formulating clear, smart answers to the questions about how your professional background is related to the new position. Your answers do not need to be particularly thorough at this stage of the recruitment process: you will have another opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and the strength of your personality, when you arrive to a face-to-face interview. For now, the company’s recruiters are seeking to receive intelligent responses delivered in a calm, confident manner. In addition to walking through your résumé, the Human Resources representative may ask you the following questions:

  • Questions about the job – They are directed to ascertain whether applicants know what their prospective role involves and what tasks they will perform, if they are hired. Recruiters also want to know why applicants are attracted to the applied position and how they envisage their own contribution to the company’s development.
  • Questions about the employer – These questions are posed to see if you have researched about the company for which you applied and whether you understand to what industry it belongs. To answer these questions more fully, it is worthwhile to find out how the company’s competitors affect its business or the industry as a whole. Giving smart answers to this type of questions will convince your employers that you are motivated and prepared to work for them.
  • Questions about aspirations – It is important for your prospective employers to hire not only professionally trained but also highly motivated people. However clever and skilled employees are, they will not become a valuable addition to the company, if they are not motivated to work hard. Hiring unambitious, lazy people is what employers try to avoid at all costs. Get ready, then, to tell your recruiters what drives you forward and to what heights in your career and life in general you aspire. Be prepared also to talk about your achievements.
  • Questions about salary and benefits – It is becoming increasingly common in today’s business world to ask applicants what their salary expectations are. This is a tricky question, an answer to which may place you in a disadvantageous position, if you name a higher or lower amount than the company is ready to pay you. Try to find out what average salary a person performing your role receives in your industry so that your expectations correspond to what your potential employer is willing to give you. Such websites as Glassdoor and Indeed provide this information. Discuss also the benefits that you will receive, if you become employed.
  • Questions about travel and relocation – You will be asked these questions if you live away from the company or if your position requires travelling.
  • Competency-based questions – These are admittedly the most difficult questions you may receive during your phone interview. They require job candidates to illustrate their answers with examples taken from real-life situations in which they found themselves in the past. Answering competency-based questions, job applicants should explain why they made certain decisions when facing a specific situation, how they implemented them, and what results came out of their actions. To deliver more comprehensive responses, use either the STAR or the CAR format.

The phone interview lasts approximately from half an hour to forty minutes. A commonly used alternative to the telephone conversation is the Skype interview. Some companies invite their prospective employers to pass the web interview, asking them to record their answers to pre-recorded interview questions. Note also that you may have multiple phone or Skype interviews, either with the Human Resources manager or your prospective managers, before you are selected to write a test or meet your employers in a face-to-face conversation.


How to Prepare for the Telephone Interview?

The phone interview can be daunting, because applicants do not see the person on the other side of the phone and do not always understand his or her reactions to their answers. This slightly unnatural situation makes it difficult for applicants to navigate through the conversation and control the impression they are making on their recruiter. Hidden from their interlocutor and deprived of an opportunity to use their physical charms manifested in gestures, facial expressions, and smiles, job candidates have only the tone of their voice to rely upon to engage the interviewer’s attention. Practicing to answer questions about yourself over the phone before the actual interview may improve your performance during it.  What is also crucial for your success is researching about the company and the industry in which it works. The more you appear in the know about the structure of the company’s business, its mission, and goals, the more professional you will sound and the more favorable impression you will thus produce. Go through a few dry runs also of JobTestPrep’s high quality interview resources. Our interview kit contains tips on how conduct yourself during the interview along with the most frequently asked interview questions, some of which are listed in the section below.


The Most Frequently Asked Phone Interview Questions

Here is a partial list of the interview question commonly asked during the telephone interview:

  • Why did you apply for this position?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What do you find attractive in this industry?
  • Tell me about your previous employment.
  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?
  • What has been your greatest achievement so far?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What subjects did you like most in your university?
  • Would you like to have frequent travel?
  • What else can you tell about yourself?

JobTestPrep does its best to help candidates have smooth sailing for their future career. We know that applicants’ success during the phone interview guarantees that they will be invited either to take a test or have an in-person interview with their potential managers. We also know that the first impression is the most lasting. Therefore, we put forth an extra effort in creating high-quality interview materials that are brought together in our exclusive PrepPack™. Purchase our resources, pass your phone interview with confidence, and move to the next stage in your recruitment process. 

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