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The interview process – most of us have walked down this road before. And although the interview itself brings about emotions of sheer terror, it is often the prescreening interview that can make or break whether we get that next job. Prescreening interviews are generally held over the phone, and though they can vary just as much as a face-to-face interview can, there are a few guidelines to follow that just might get you to the next step in the process of advancing your career.
First and foremost, remember that your words represent you over the phone — still, know that your nonverbal cues can be “heard” over the phone. If you are frowning, believe it or not, your voice will reflect that. So be sure that you are just as professional in the screening interview as you would be if you were face-to-face with the interviewer.
The most important part of a job interview is communicating what you can bring to the position. Understand the job description and articulate how your experience, background, and personal attributes make you an ideal fit for the role. Let the interviewer know what sets you apart.
Though it seems like common sense, be sure not to interrupt the interviewer while he or she is speaking. Pausing while on the phone can be perceived differently than a pause in person. Really listen to the questions and flow of the conversation before speaking. The last thing you want to do is ruin a great interview with unintended rudeness.
Remember that all the general guidelines of a face-to-face interview apply to phone interviews as well: Be polite, be on time, know the company, and “dress for success” — meaning, speak professionally. But don’t try to overdo it by using words that are so far out of your normal mode of speaking that their precise definitions elude you. (Avoiding slang and expletives should go without saying.)
Don’t let your nerves rule the interview. In order to combat nervousness, try practicing beforehand. Get a friend and go over some common questions you think may be asked. Though you can research common questions specific to your position (as questions for a receptionist position will certainly vary from those asked of a CEO), there are a few that are asked routinely. USA Today presents some of the most asked interview questions in their article “Common Interview Questions”, including:
Common Interview Questions
- Can you tell us about yourself?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What experience do you have in this field/industry?
- Can you walk us through how you handle a difficult situation at work?
- How do you prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you handle constructive criticism?
- What motivates you to do your best work?
- Do you have any questions for us?
- Don’t take the call in a noisy environment. Block out this time just as you would if you were going to an in-person interview.
- Avoid placing the interviewer on hold for any reason.
- Don’t be disengaged or disinterested.
- Avoid sounding arrogant.
- Don’t speak badly about a previous employer.
To ace a job interview screening, candidates should research the company and the position, prepare responses to common interview questions, practice their delivery and body language, highlight relevant experience and skills, and ask thoughtful questions to demonstrate their interest and fit for the job. By following these steps, candidates can impress the interviewer and increase their chances of advancing to the next stage of the interview process.
Prepare, practice, and refine your interview. Be your best self. If you’re prepared, you’ll be more confident and put your best foot forward.