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Phone interviews
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River Chocobo


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Old Mar 13, 2009, 01:59 PM #1 of 9
Phone interviews

When I checked my mail today I discovered that a company that I had applied for a job, had sent me an e-mail and asked for a phone interview on monday.

For those who've had phoneinterviews: are there anything I should prepare for or is just like a regular interview? What are the typical questions they will ask for example?

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Araes
Plush


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Old Mar 13, 2009, 06:44 PM Local time: Mar 13, 2009, 06:44 PM #2 of 9
Generally, I find phone interviews to be more difficult than in-person interviews, as you have no control over perception except for how your voice sounds. Having someone ask you some mock questions can be a good prep for this so that you don't say common pauses like "umm", "well", "hmm", ect....

On the types of questions, it really depends on what type of job you're applying for. I'm technical and systems, so whenever I've done these types of interviews, they generally open with some questions about my past experience, why I'm interested in the job, what I know about the company/what they do, and then they'll often finish off with some kind of technical question that tries to measure your ability to think on the fly, problem solve, or perform whatever task they're asking of you. Finally, they'll probably check if you have any questions about them / the job / the company, and its usually good to have a couple.

One thing I've actually found helpful for these types of questions / interviews is some practice consultant tests that exist on the web to give you a feel for consulting. They're often not directly related to what you're going for, but they get you in that mindset of answering vaguely defined problems and systematically cutting them apart. BCG, Siemens Consulting, IBM, ect... all have these.

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Sorry I can't target this more, but if you say at least the general type of job, I might be able to have more specific advice on questions.

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Alai
Exobiologist


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Old Mar 13, 2009, 08:25 PM Local time: Mar 13, 2009, 08:25 PM #3 of 9
I agree with Araes. If it is a technical interview, you can expect some technical questions. For instance, google is known to have some notoriously difficult phone interviews...

Generally phone interviews are just a way to weed out some people. If you sound responsible, professional, and reasonably smart, you are probably on your way to a follow up in-person interview.

This thing is sticky, and I don't like it. I don't appreciate it.
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River Chocobo


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Old Mar 14, 2009, 07:29 AM #4 of 9
I have a computer science background and applied online for a graduate position in a oil-company.

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Rossi


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Old Mar 14, 2009, 11:20 AM #5 of 9
Make sure you familiarize yourself with all aspects of the company. Do a thorough news search about the company before hand, and make sure you know the position you are applying for pretty well.

My only experience with a phone interview was pretty bad. I would say you can't be prepared enough.

I was speaking idiomatically.
mortis
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Old Mar 14, 2009, 11:36 AM #6 of 9
I had one once.

They asked me about my background, asked me how I'd handle certain situations, and tended to ask me the "usual" questions (e.g. "What is your biggest strength, Tell us about a time when you had to deal with something that was totally different / something that happened on a spur of the moment"). I would thing about the general things you have to answer in an interview. In addition, prepare questiosn about the company. Many times, I would ask questions on things I read about the company / job description that meant I had an idea of what they wanted / expected/ did but needed more detailed information. Also, don't forget to ask about questions about the working environment, etc as you won't have as good of a chance to find out as you would in person.

Good questions to always check on is what is to be expected of you, what is a normal work day, etc. Also, make sure you take notes and get more details to the answers to the questions you ask / information you talked about.

Don't worry to much about the "umms, uhhs, err" and such. It happens. Don't dwell on it. Don't worry either about taking a moment to properly answer a question. It's not like they ahve a stop watch and are timing you. Be ready and keep an open imind too. I would suggest looking online at some of the common questions and suggest answers, but also see if you can find the "unusual interview questions". Keep in mind they could ask you anything with regards to the unusual questions and again that's why you need to keep an open mind, give a few seconds of though, and give an answer in which you have at least some sort of logic behind it.

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Araes
Plush


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Old Mar 14, 2009, 08:51 PM Local time: Mar 14, 2009, 08:51 PM #7 of 9
First up, I agree that being at least superficially familiar with the common phone interview questions is a good idea. Its not that you need to think of detailed thoughts for each one, as its not really about nailing them. You just don't want to have any that are totally out of the blue and catch you unawares. Things like talking badly about your past associates are ones that often trip people.

With a computer science background, one of the things they may ask are details on projects or work which highlights the particular skillset/languages they're looking for. A decent amount of the time, its silly things like saying you know X language which actually nets the job on some of these, and they might want to know what you've done with it and what your level of involvement was.

If I were giving it for a CS person, the level of super-technical questions would really depend on the focus of the job. If all I want is a surgical C++ / SQL guy to write database abstraction layers, then I'll probably ask some harsh, specific technical stuff. If I want more of a generalist, who can easily adapt to multiple languages and handle a changing work environment, then I'll probably stick to more general questions that cover problem dissection skills and reasoning. That said, there is a good chance that for the phone interview it will just be an HR person who wouldn't know what to ask in terms of super-tech anyhow. They may have already told you who you'll be talking with. If it is HR, they'll probably ask general problem skills questions, and super-tech, if needed, would be reserved for a face-to-face. If the specific tech person is on the line, then you may get more in-depth.

Whenever we write these, we often have an immediate project/need in mind, and we'll try to put as much of that in as we can, in terms of things that are pluses or requirements. However, through the HR process, much of that can get blurred or filtered out, as they work to get a wide range of applicants. People who make it to the phone interview round are normally those who met the base requirements, and then had something else we found particularly interesting. A project, an aligned experience, or an interesting secondary skill that piqued our interest. Its hard to say what that is going to be, but its good to look over the information you sent in, the things you noted of interest, and then think about what you might say if someone asked you about them.

On the "umms, uhhs, err" section, having been the one administering these, I would agree not to stress out about it, but practice does help. Generally, if you use them every once in a while, but don't constantly drop them, then you're fine. However, it tends to be one of the first things that stands out over the phone, and I've personally had bad impressions from interviewees because they're constantly interjecting long "ummms". Its not really fair, as they're often smart/skilled people, but they just can't convey that skill convincingly.

Hope all of that helps, and that the interview goes well.

FELIPE NO
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River Chocobo


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Old Mar 15, 2009, 06:13 AM #8 of 9
Thank you all for your replies and tips.
I will surely spend most of my day today preparing for my phoneinterview on monday.

The e-mail didnt indicate whether the contact was a HR or techperson.
It said that the interview would only last 15 min and if I could attend to a assessment center next month.

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River Chocobo


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Old Mar 16, 2009, 04:41 PM #9 of 9
Had the phoneinterview today.
I prepared so many questions and they asked me so little
Not sure if this is good or bad.

They will contact me again in the beginning of April...

Jam it back in, in the dark.
Thanks to Fjordor for the funny image!
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