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What the Talent Acquisition Team Wants all Candidates to Know – How to Nail Your Phone Interview

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This is coming from a Talent Acquisition professional, we want you to know these things so we’re on the same page! Really – I want you to succeed, and want to hire someone! That is why I am sharing insider tips on how to nail your phone interview.

First off, let’s talk about the application (which is the first stage in getting your interview). Public service announcement: I apologize for all the systems out there that ask you to re-enter your information field by field in order to apply. It’s not fair to your time, and there is technology out there to overcome it. As a Talent Acquisition pro, we don’t want to waste your time – TA will continue to advocate for change and updating systems in companies around the world!

To cover letter or not to cover letter? That is the question!

Second, the great cover letter or no cover letter debate: well, like all complex things, it depends. If you are going to use an irrelevant template and risk having the wrong company name or job title, then I don’t recommend including it. A tailored piece with a few sentences as to why you are a good fit or interested in the opportunity is sufficient. In truth, no one may ever read it. Indeed if you do make it through the initial screening process, the hiring manager or other higher-ups will likely take a look. This personalized note is where it can become valuable when they are considering you over another candidate.

Now, you got invited for an initial discussion. Great! Be prepared to be on camera if they share a zoom/Teams/Meet link, as they could be expecting a video chat. Alternately, it is a free and convenient way to phone someone without typing in phone numbers or having roaming charges. If they don’t specify video or not then either ask, or you are going to be prepared and presentable.

To nail your phone interview, you must attend it

Also – make sure you are double checking the time zones! Tools are getting better at being applied to your personal time zone, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check and make sure! On that – be on time! I remember when someone was impressed that I (the recruiter) was on time for the meeting and thanked me. Why are recruiters late? Of course doing back to back calls I can end up a few minutes behind schedule and fitting in candidate notes, but I always strive to respect the candidates time just as much. I think it provides significant insight into the company culture, operations and time management.

You may also be interested in: The ROI of a great candidate experience – with templates!


Most important piece of preparation advice to nail your phone interview: Do your research. Have an understanding of what the company product is, and look for recent news articles or funding rounds. Also research the industry and who the competitors are. You don’t need to do a deep dive but a general overview is perfect. Do not use the question period to ask what the company does, or something that could have been easily seen on the website.

Now, when actually speaking to the recruiter, ask them about the work culture. Ask if there is a hybrid or remote-first work plan in place and how the company manages distributed teams. This is important in assuring you are comfortable with the daily work expectations. Trust me, if the culture is worth bragging about the recruiter is ready to chat! Otherwise – see it as your red flag.

I remember a candidate asking me questions about the culture, diversity initiatives and how the benefits. In this specific role at the time time I was happy to share my honest personal employee experience and what I like about the company. I find that many folks these days are looking for meaningful work, that they are a part of something important.

Answer behavioural questions with STAR in your interview

When asked for specific examples about your experience, use the STAR approach to answer questions. I love this technique to answer questions about my experiences because it is simple and provides a complete answer. STAR stands for:

SituationBeginning with context of the situation you want to talk about
TaskElaborate. Clarify your relation to the task described in the situation
ActionWhat did you do specifically? Explain how you overcame challenges
ResultWhat was the outcome? Do you have a (measurable) stat to share your success? Saved time?

With this technique, prepare some sample answers around accomplishments you want to highlight. Also tailor your answer to the specific question.

And finally, prepare a few questions that you would like to ask. It’s okay if it’s just general questions, it shows the recruiter you are interested in the role and the company. Follow these tips and you are well on your way to success. Remember, they selected you to interview for a reason! Now go and nail your phone interview!

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