Life sciences employers ranging from academic institution to private sector companies are increasingly turning to telephone interviews as an initial means to screen prospective job candidates. While in many instances these interviews are perfunctory, they are conducted for two main reasons. First, the employer wants to verify that the information presented by the candidate in his/her curriculum vitae is correct and accurate. Second, and perhaps more importantly, to determine whether or not a candidate has sufficient oral communications skills that warrant the cost necessary to bring a candidate in for a face-to-face on site interview.
The use of telephone interviews has become increasingly popular because of the escalating costs associated with bringing candidates in for onsite interviews and a growing number of foreign born applicants applying for life sciences jobs. Put simply, a prospective employer can easily determine an applicant’s command of the English language and his/her immigration status in a telephone interview. Both immigration status (permanent resident or citizenship) and outstanding command of the English language have become of paramount importance to most life sciences employers over the past five years or so. However, it is important to note, that individual employers place different emphasis on the qualifications and skills of applicants for different job opportunities within an organization.
Like it or not, you may find yourself in the position of having to participate in a telephone interview before a decision is made on whether or not you may be invited to visit for an onsite interview. To that end, Pete Kistler, CEO of Brand-Yourself.com, recently posted a great piece that describes how to best prepare for a phone interview. He offers seven easy-to-follow tips that are likely to increase the probability of a visit for an onsite interview.
1. Use a landline. You don’t want to risk having problems with cell phone service. It is irritating for employers to conduct interviews if the call breaks up frequently or is dropped completely. If you don’t have a land line at home, just make sure you are in an area with as much cell phone service as possible. Do what you can so the process runs as smooth as possible.
2. Keep your materials handy. In fact, lay everything out in front of you. This includes your resume, notes about your career objective (even if it isn’t included in your original cover letter it’s a good idea to have this out depending on the questions he will ask you), a pen and pad of paper for note-taking and anything else you think may be helpful during your interview. Because you won’t have to schlep into an office, you can have anything out in front of you to aid with your success.
3. Steer clear of distractions. Find a quiet place to interview and stay there! There shouldn’t be any noise in the background to distract you or your potential employer. However, it is understandable that this can be tricky if you have young children at home who need your attention. When you set up your interview appointment, try to schedule it for as precise a time or window as possible. That way, you are able to avoid possible distractions (ex.: your phone interview is between 4 and 4:30, so no one can have company over during that time, the kids are fed and occupied or a sitter will watch them, if need be.)
4. Speak slowly and clearly. When you speak to people face-to-face, you are able to understand what they are saying more clearly because you can see their mouth move. So in a way, you are reading their lips! Neither you nor your potential employer will be able to do this over the phone of course, so speak clearly and a little bit more slowly than you would if you were talking to this person in person. If you can’t hear him, drop hints that he isn’t speaking clearly or loud enough by politely asking him to repeat himself. If this makes you uncomfortable at all you can always blame it on your phone: “I’m really sorry, it’s hard to hear you, the volume on my phone just won’t go up!”
5. Remember – you can’t be seen. That means that anything you say cannot be interpreted by your body language. Beware of jokes or sarcastic remarks that would have been harmless had he seen your facial expression. Maintain your professionalism; stay on target with the interview topics and focus on the key information about you that will get you hired.
6. No eating, drinking or chewing gum! This is self-explanatory. But, we humans are creatures of habit and might pop a potato chip in our mouths at just the wrong moment. However, when I say no eating or drinking I mean during the phone interview. You should eat beforehand to get your brain going so you can focus.
7. Prepare questions ahead of time. Just like in a personal interview, prepare a few questions to ask your potential employer at the end of your phone interview. Some examples are:
“What is the start date for the opportunity?”
“What software/equipment would I be using?”
Remember – do not ask about salary or benefits until the employer has brought it up.
Fortunately, it can be less intimidating interviewing over the phone with these telephone interview tips and you may even feel more confident that you’ll do well. Great! As long as you are fully prepared and take the necessary precautions, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have a successful phone interview.
Until next time....
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!