A long-distance job search can be daunting — especially once you get to the interview phase. But many companies won’t invest the money to bring you in for a face-to-face interview until you’re further along in the process. That means you must master your phone interview skills.
The stakes are higher for candidates in a long-distance interview than they are in an in-person interview, says Sari de la Motte, author of “Beyond a Firm Handshake.” “Here’s the thing about an interview: It all comes down to how you communicate. You can have the most outstanding qualifications and background, but if you can’t communicate that you’re skilled, qualified and a good fit in the interview, you’re toast,” she says. “When you are face-to-face, you have so many more options in terms of communication. When you’re limited to the phone, you only have tone of voice, and that’s much more difficult.”
But just because the stakes are higher, it doesn’t mean you have less of chance than an in-person candidate to land the job.
“Organizations want the best people. The best person does not always live next door to the company,” says Paul Bailo, CEO of Phone Interview Pro and author of “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook.” “Great people come from all over, not just from your own community. That is why a phone interview is so important in this case. The company will not bother putting its resources in a candidate that does not do well in a phone interview.”
The biggest mistake out-of-state candidates make when giving a phone interview from afar is treating the interview as less important because it’s not in-person, de la Motte says.
“This causes people to do stupid things like conduct the interview while commuting or in the bath — true story — or while distracted,” she says. “Treat the interview like you would an in-person interview. Prepare, have a quiet place to answer questions, stand while you speak so you can access your breathing and pause often.”
Here are five more tips for acing the long-distance interview:
1. Prepare to discuss why you are moving or want to move to the new location. “When I ask a candidate why she wants to move, and her response is, ‘We just need a better place to live,’ I become very concerned,” says Bill Humbert, principal of RecruiterGuy.com. “My desire is to help clients find people who make impacts and will stay with them.”
“What are you leaving or running away from?” Bailo adds. “Why can’t you make it in your own backyard? What makes our community better than yours? Those are some of the questions you need to be ready to answer.”
2. Wear business attire. “Of course the interviewer can’t see you, but you won’t feel or sound as businesslike in your pajamas and pink slippers,” Bailo says.
3. Have a photo of your interviewer on your computer screen. “This could be from LinkedIn, Facebook, the company website or anywhere else your interviewer’s face might appear online,” Bailo says. “It makes the interview a little more like an in-person conversation.”
4. Use the resources you have. “Phone interviews are a lot like an open-book test — you can have all your information right in front of you,” Bailo says. Keep your résumé and cover letter within reach, and have the company website open on the computer.
5. Ask about next steps. “At the end of the call, ask how well your qualifications meet the company’s needs. This will give you a chance to address minor issues immediately. Then, ask when you can meet with them in-person,” Bailo says.