Make the Most of a Telephone Job Interview
Does the thought of an upcoming phone interview make you nervous?
Are you afraid that you won’t appear confident enough, or perhaps too confident, or that your mind will go blank when you are asked a question?
Stop worrying, take a deep breath, and look at this piece in the hiring process from a whole different angle: it is like a blind date, where both parties are on equal footing and need to feel one another out to see if there is enough interest and common ground to justify meeting again. And just as with blind dates, if either party seems too good to be true, they probably are.
While it may seem that phone interviews are solely based upon verbal communication, body language can actually play a significant role. Prepare to use the same etiquette you would if you were meeting an interviewer in person: Sit up straight, smile, and focus on active listening so that you don’t lose any valuable information. Be ready at least 5 minutes before the time the call is scheduled, make sure your phone is charged, and arrange to have a quiet place to talk where you will not be disturbed.
The outcome of a phone interview can often be determined within the first few minutes, and there is nothing more of a turn-off than a candidate who sounds bored, rushed, or seems to have forgotten all about the scheduled call.
Follow these tips to make sure you’re prepared for a phone interview, and see the checklist (click on the PDF at the top of the page).
Research your interviewer. Try to find out who will be interviewing you; if possible get the person’s name and title.
Organize your thoughts. Make a list of your achievements, accomplishments, results, goals, and strengths. On another list write out your weaknesses and what you are doing to overcome them. On a third sheet write down why you are interested in the hospital.
Do a sound check. During a mock interview, have a friend ask you questions both over the phone and in person. Make sure that he listens not only for content, but also tone, rate, and clarity of your speech. If possible, record yourself speaking. Are you speaking slowly and clearly? Can you easily be heard? If you tend to talk too much, especially when nervous, be conscious of this so that you stop yourself from rambling on after you have already answered the question.
Organize your research notes. Have a copy of your resume and cover letter close at hand. Take out the lists you made while organizing your thoughts. In addition keep any notes related to the practice that you feel may be helpful during the call. Spread these items out across your table so they are easy to access. Only keep what is truly necessary. Too much paper can be a distraction.
It’s a Two-Way Street
Just as important as being able to answer questions asked of you is to determine whether this is a position you are interested in pursuing. It is easy to get so caught up in “winning” that you lose track of whether the prize is one you want.
Has the interviewer taken time to prepare for your conversation? Does it appear he has reviewed your resume, or does it seem the first look coincides with your telephone interview? Is he listening to your individual responses and following up with related questions, or does it sound as if the questions are being read off a sheet of paper?
Make sure to ask questions about practice statistics (average client transactions, number of patients seen in a day, etc.), but also ask about the mission and culture to help decide if the practice’s philosophy aligns with your own.
At this point in the interview process, questions should not revolve around salary and benefits, but on things that are most important to you. Make sure that you have at least five things written down to remind yourself of your priorities. For example, your list might include:
1. Vaccine protocols
2. Job descriptions
3. After-hour emergencies
4. Management protocols (staff meetings, continuing education, etc)
5. Extracurricular activities
Highlight your own skills and passions by correlating them to something specific you have taken the time to learn about the practice. It can be as simple as saying, “I saw that you offer nutritional counseling…” or, “I did some research on your location and was excited to see that there are some great running and cycling trails, which is fantastic, since I am training for my first triathlon this year.”
At the end of the interview, do not be afraid to let the interviewer know that you are interested in the position and would like an opportunity for a working interview and to see the practice in person. Working interviews are an absolute must before accepting a position; it gives you and the practice a chance to verify that the answers and impressions given during the phone interview are accurate. If you haven’t already done so, ask if you can send a list of professional references. On the other hand, if the job does not sound like the right fit, politely let him or her know so that they don’t spend more time on your application and can focus on other candidates.
By following the above suggestions and preparing appropriately, you should have no problem banishing those preinterview jitters. Answer and ask questions with intelligence and confidence and always keep in mind that you have as much to learn about them as they do about you.
Stith Keiser is a former hospital administrator and founder of MyVeterinaryCareer.com. Jessica Goodman Lee is a certified veterinary practice manager and is the hospital administrator of Angel Veterinary Center in Flower Mound, Texas. She is also a veterinary specialist for MyVeterinaryCareer.