Tech Job Phone Interview: 6 Tips for Success
By Ellen Jones
Years of screening hundreds of candidates have left me with a trove of insider advice on how software engineers can shine in phone interviews. These are the key things I listen for outside of the skills that qualify candidates for a position.
1. Serious interview prepwork
One of the first questions I ask is, “What research have you done on our company?” This is the first place many candidates trip up. You might think there’s no need to do homework before your phone meeting. Not so: Prove you’ve done the research.
Here’s where you can excel on this point in a phone interview:
- Explain what you know about both the company and the position.
- Mention any of the current employees’ LinkedIn profiles you’ve reviewed. Being able to recite a few of the roles and their current occupants is a plus.
- Comb the company’s site for recent press releases and read those.
- Watch the company’s videos on its website or go the extra mile and find them on YouTube.
2. A professional first impression
A phone interview is often the first step in connecting with a potential employer. And the old saying about first impressions is true: you don’t get more than one in any given situation. Today, phone and video are the most popular options for interviewing, and companies often use a phone screening as a predecessor to a video interview.
Although they can’t see you, an interviewer can tell a lot from your voice, and there are a few things you can do to optimize it. First, stand up or sit tall so your voice projects appropriately. And smile — you’ll sound more relaxed and inviting. Also, set the stage for success: Make sure you’re in a quiet setting (no dogs barking or dishes clanking). And head off any issues with the call itself by ensuring you’re in a place with good cell reception or by using a landline.
3. Speech that’s appropriate for your audience
Read the room: Are you meeting with a technical interviewer or non-technical team members? For the latter audience, plan on a high-level discussion of your qualifications, your proficiencies in those areas, and what you’ve recently built. Although you can approach technical team members the same way, you can also go into more detail with them on your qualifications and proficiency.
Also, demonstrate how you have used your skills by going beyond what’s on your resume. Share your journey as an engineer, and give them the highlights in chronological order. Set your narrative up for success — this means focusing on the experiences most relevant to the job for which you’re interviewing and not ending on a place in your career that would least qualify you for the position at hand.
And finally, organize your thoughts by reviewing your resume and making sure you can speak to every line item. Refresh your memory on what you did in certain roles, and be prepared to explain any gaps in employment.
4. Management of interview answers and time
Give the interviewer space: It’s important to establish an open dialogue, so don’t take too much time with your answers. Plan to keep them thorough yet concise, and allow the interviewer to expand a line of questions if they hear something that interests them. This approach ensures you’re considerate of an interviewer’s time by allowing them to cover the material they need to hear about.
Monitor the time. If you’re a little nervous, it can be easy to lose track of it. Consider setting a timer for the halfway point of the allotted time for the interview so you know you’re on track. At that point, ask yourself if it seems like you’ve given them half of what they need to hire you.
Sometimes, interviews don’t develop as you plan. If the conversation isn’t as positive as you’d hoped, stay calm and pleasant. If a question catches you off guard and you’re not satisfied with your answer, it’s OK to circle back and say, “I wish I had answered your earlier question differently. I’d like to add … ” It’s also OK to see where your interviewer’s mind is after an answer by asking, “Did I give you the information you needed for that question, or would you like for me to expand?” It’s about being real and authentic — not about being staged and perfect.
5. A clear interest in the position
At the end of the conversation, if you feel strongly that the job is a fit for you and you’re interested in moving forward with the interview process, let your interviewer know. Ask if there is any additional information you can provide so they have everything they need. Send them a thank you note (email is fine for a phone interview) explaining your understanding of the role, and why you think you’re a fit. Remember, written communication says a lot about your level of attention, so take a moment to carefully proofread an email by reading it aloud. If you misspell any words, including an employee’s name or the company’s name, it’s unlikely you will get an invitation to meet face-to-face.
6. Demonstration that you’re the best candidate
Sure, it’s a candidates’ market but that fact doesn’t mean you can come across as average and expect to secure a job. The ending portion of an interview is the time for you to make sure you’ve shone. Develop a closing statement that will wow your interviewer. Essentially, plan to end with a “Pursuit of Happiness” moment a la Will Smith’s single-minded Chris Gardner doing his level best to land sales. In the most professional-yet-enthusiastic terms possible, let your potential employer know you want the job and that you will perform to the best of your abilities while always keeping their company’s best interests at heart.
Before your next phone interview
If you think a phone interview is an unnecessary obstacle in your job search, you need to reconsider. When a phone interview comes up, it’s an opportunity to get ahead of the other candidates, set a lasting impression and gain valuable insight for determining whether a company is a good fit for your next career move.
If you’re looking to join a dynamic team of software developers, reach out to us. At SOLTECH, we’re always looking for the best and brightest to join our team.
Ellen JonesDirector of Staffing Solutions
Ellen Jones is the Director of Staffing Solutions at SOLTECH, Atlanta’s award winning software development and IT staffing firm. With a decade of diverse Account Management experience, she has expertise in project management, resource improvement consulting, and strategic discussions with key stakeholders.
Since joining SOLTECH in 2019, she has focused on building partnerships with software engineers and connecting business clients with top-tier talent for their success. Ellen’s expertise and experience in Account Management, project management, and resource optimization enable her to deliver innovative staffing solutions to SOLTECH’s clients. Her comprehensive understanding of the IT staffing industry allows her to write insightful articles on topics related to career advancement and talent acquisition. She shares her knowledge and industry insights through her writings, providing valuable guidance to professionals and organizations seeking to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of software development and IT staffing.