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How to Prepare for a Job Phone Interview

Mid America Search - the Insurance Recruiter. And one of the world's best Insurance Recruiters.

The information below is not intended to be rigid regarding how to prepare for a phone interview.  Rather, it is a set of discussions and observations based upon executive search activities conducted by Mid America Search over the past 45 plus years.  Phone interviews obviously can be approached in several ways.

The sections below are meant to have the reader think about the process at hand.  In addition, the sections are intended to set the seriousness of the process and assist in preparedness.  Quite important in the process; by all means carefully listen to the interviewer and then respond to the actual question(s) asked.

A phone interview is a critical business call and communications matter.  This document is what to expect in a job interview and job interview preparation.  It is essential to have a strong or commanding presence during the phone interview; yet also converse in a manner that demonstrates complete confidence, calmness and a projection of being fully prepared for the call.  Do not sound desperate during the call; however, avoid projecting aloofness or disinterest.  Project your voice well.  Take some deep breathes a few minutes prior to the scheduled phone interview time.  Keep good posture through the entire interview.  Avoid bad grammar, slang, as well as the use of profanity.

Adhere to the phone interview schedule.  Should the interview be scheduled, do not allow the interviewer to get your voicemail.  Contact us and/or the interviewer immediately should emergencies make it such that the interview must be rescheduled.

If the phone interview has no set schedule, we suggest the following.  Knowing the interviewer’s call, at some time, will be made; adjust your voicemail greeting assuring it is framed in a professional and mature manner.  Leave your greeting in that fashion during the entire interview/offer process.

The items below, along with the use of good common sense, are intended to be a guide for preparation.  Consider these job interview tips or how to do good in a job interview or how to succeed in a job interview.  The items are:

  • Be efficient, effective and have a comprehensive approach.
  • Stay on point in the discussion.
  • Focus on your ability to do the job.
  • Clearly present each point of an answer and/or response to an open-ended question.
  • Effectively summarize points made in a response without being repetitious or redundant.
  • Thoroughly do your job interview preparation; however, absolutely do not use your current employer’s time or resources.
    • Research the company through their web site and other insurance industry sources.
    • Research biographies of the company’s executives.
    • Research the company’s product lines.
    • Research the company’s territories
    • Research the company’s history.
    • Research all aspects of the job opening and thoroughly study the job listing or job description should one be available.
  • What Questions Interviewer May Ask (this may assist in how to answer job interview questions).
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • Describe a typical day in your work setting.
    • What are your strengths?
    • What are your weaknesses?
    • What was the best day, recently, you’ve had in a work setting and why?
    • What was the worst day, recently, you’ve had in a work setting and why?
    • What do you consider the best way in which you learn new things and skills and please give examples?
    • What management style, in your experience, do you find works the best and please give examples?  In the abstract, what management style do you think works the best?
    • What motivates you in the work setting?
    • What skills and abilities do you possess to successfully do this job opening?
    • Going forward, what are your career goals?
      • In a one-year timeframe?
      • In a five-year timeframe?
      • In a ten-year timeframe?
    • What is your salary history?  Provide information.
    • What is your desired salary?  Either say “negotiable” or if pressed to give a number, give a range (low to high salary).
    • If not asked about salary history, do not bring up salary or benefits.  That is typically discussed at the point of an offer.
  • What to Ask in a Job Interview.
    • Possible questions regarding the job opening (this will assist in what to say in a job interview).  These are good questions to ask in a job interview.  For example:
      • Is the job newly created?
      • If not newly created, why is the job open?
      • What are the key elements of an ideal Candidate for the job?
      • Do you see any missing elements in my background and skill set for the job?
      • What other areas, units and/or departments, of the company or organization, directly interface with this job opening?
        • And of those, which are most critical?
        • And of those, which are less or more tangential to the job opening?
      • Overall, where does this job, in terms of its strategic criticalness, fit into the company or organization?
      • Should the job listing not be clear, or it is absent in the description.  What supervisory duties are in the job opening?
      • What are the metrics by which performance review is based upon?
      • What is the frequency and schedule of performance reviews?
    • Possible questions regarding the company or organization (this is how to do well in a job interview).  This will allow you to demonstrate you have researched the company or organization.  Questions, should your research not have provided answers, are possibly:
      • Company’s placement or rank compared to its competition?
      • Company’s current business lines?
      • Company’s development of future business lines and/or products?
      • Overall philosophy and business approach of the company?
      • Company’s general approach and philosophy regarding its customers and clients?
      • Company’s general approach and philosophy regarding its staff?
      • Questions that inherently pertain to your discipline (i.e. actuarial, accounting, administrative, claims, marketing, sales, underwriting, etc.).
  • Tie in your qualifications, throughout the interview.  Thoroughly and completely know your skill set(s) as well as your entire resume and how they fit this job.
  • Comprehensively match-up your demonstrated skills, education, industry studies and certifications, career accomplishments, and other resume factors with the key elements the interviewer listed of an ideal candidate for the job opening.
  • Do not talk about personal problems.
  • Speak positively about co-workers and former employers.
  • Leave your schedule sufficiently open should the interview run longer than expected.
  • Allow enough time (i.e. at least five to ten minutes) for preparation prior to the interview.  For example, do not just finish a jog, etc. minutes prior to the phone interview.
  • Have a setting, such as an office area at your residence, to conduct the phone interview.  Have materials to take notes.  Have, if available, a listing or job description of the job opening the interview concerns.
  • Do not have an environment and/or atmosphere full of distractions or noises, such as TVs, music, pets, family, friends, etc.
  • Have liquids available should they be needed.
  • Solely perform the phone interview and do no other tasks, but the interview, during it.
  • Good quality phone and connection.
    • Plan on taking call in best available location (i.e. not entering a tunnel, etc.).
    • Assure phone battery will easily and reliably last through the call.
    • Mute your phone.  This will eliminate the distraction of another incoming call.
  • Video phone interview.  In addition to this discussion (i.e. How to Prepare for a Job Phone Interview), also prepare as though it were a face-to-face interview.  (Please see:  How to Prepare for a Face-to-Face Job Interview).
  • Closing the interview (this prepares you for what to do after a job interview).
    • Emphasize interest.  If you like what you hear regarding the job opening express your interest in proceeding further in the interview process or, if appropriate, let the interviewer know you hope to be the one selected for the job.
    • Summarize your qualifications.
    • Thank the interviewer for the opportunity.
    • Find out when you can call to follow up.
    • Get contact information for follow-up correspondence with the interviewer as well as, if applicable, possible other company contacts.
  • How to Follow Up on a Job Interview (i.e. Send follow-up thank you). One should email or send hard-copy correspondence.
    • Keep it short, simple and to the point.
    • Begin by thanking the person for their extremely valuable time.
    • Concisely point-out why you fit the job.
    • Close by expressing your interest in being considered further for the job and thank them once again for the phone interview.
    • When to send follow up after job interview?  Do it immediately.

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