Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Purpose of the Phone Interview

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You've already sent in your resume and introductory cover letter to a potential employer. So why do they want to conduct a phone interview? Why not just bring you in for the real thing?

First of all, in the current market, there are many qualified candidates for every position which becomes available. You would think this would make the job of filling the position easier, when in fact, it makes it harder. Recruiters and Hiring Managers have the daunting task of looking through hundreds of resumes and must narrow it down to a handful of the best qualified to bring in for an interview. This takes time and patience. Once they get the pool of candidates into a manageable number, they begin the phone interview process to narrow it down further.

If you've made it to the phone interview stage, rejoice! Already you've come quite far! By understanding the purpose of the phone interview, you will be able to better prepare yourself. Here are some of the reasons for the phone interview:

Assess Communication Style - regardless of what position you will be filling, employers like to know that the person is able to communicate. They like to know if the person is enthusiastic and has a good attitude. They want to get a sense of how the person will fit into their team. This is very important for every position.

Specific Questions - There could be something on your resume that is not clear to the Hiring Manager. Perhaps it is your level of skill in a specific area or perhaps your objective is not clear. They may simply wish to know if you're willing to work nights or if you're willing to relocate. Or maybe you have all of the experience they are looking for except for only one thing, in which case I always encourage the hiring manager to let me, the recruiter, call the candidate and ask.

Clarify Job History - Sometimes a person has exactly the right skillset for the job, but has hopped around a lot. The phone interview can be a way to find out if there was a specific reason for the movement...perhaps you love start-up companies and each of them have folded...or maybe you are a consultant and move to different assignments. If it's not spelled out on your resume why you left a company, then the phone interview can provide the answers the Hiring Manager needs.

Assess Compensation Requirements - Many times the Hiring Manager looks at a resume and makes the assumption that the person is too senior, and therefore, has too high of a salary requirement. When counseling my Hiring Managers, I always tell them not to let that be a deal breaker until we know for sure what the candidate requires. The phone interview can be the vehicle to have the candid conversation about compensation requirements.

Technical Skills - For technical positions, many Hiring Managers or Lead Engineers will conduct a technical phone interview where they will ask specific technical questions or problems. This could be as simple as walking through a coding exercise to being asked to solve an actual problem. They are looking for HOW you would go about solving the problem and how you think things through. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to answer the questions correctly. Rather, it's more about your process in solving it.
Look at the phone interview as an excellent opportunity to get to the next step in the process for getting hired. By understanding the purpose of the phone interview, you can prepare to answer questions that get the in-person interview.

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