4 Things to Ask When You Get the Call for an Interview

Business man talking on cell phone

When you’re in active job search mode there are some essential things you need to know and be prepared for before you get that interview call – many of which I bet you’ve never thought about!. 

But don’t worry, today I’m going to tell you everything you need to know to be best prepared for when you get that call for an interview.  Also, I’m going to tell you what questions you should ask the caller, so you can gain a few insights and be the most prepared candidate possible for your upcoming interview. 

So, you’re looking for work, you come across an opportunity for your ideal job. You send in your resume and then wait with bated breath for the phone to ring with an invitation for an interview right?  A few days later you’re having lunch with your boss, your phone rings, you answer it and you’re being invited for an interview with your target employer. (YES! but awkward, as you’re having lunch with your boss!) OR it’s Friday, it’s teacher professional development day so your kids are at home, your phone rings as your children are scream fighting in the background and after you strain to the hear the caller say “I’d like to invite you for an interview”, you scramble to get to a quite place and apologize while you ask the caller to repeat themselves. 

These are not necessarily the most ideal situations you want to be in when you get the call for your dream job interview when first impressions count, right? Right! So, I’m going give you a couple of tips to prevent you getting caught in those awkward situations, and I’m going to give you the top 4 questions you should ask the interview caller.  

The first and most important thing I want you to remember when you’re in active job search mode is assume every call is an interviewer calling!

If you’re phone rings while you are in the middle of the grocery store, a noisy place, in the bathroom, driving or are in the middle of something you can’t immediately drop, and you don’t recognize the number then don’t answer your phone – let your voicemail take it.

As a recruiter and former hiring manager, there is nothing more annoying and unimpressive than trying to have a conversation with someone who is distracted or can’t hear me clearly and isn’t in a position to pay attention and write things down – it leaves a poor impression. 

Some interviewers will immediately jump into asking you questions, so if you are not fully prepared and able to have your head in the game to answer questions on the spot, take notes and remember to ask important questions then don’t risk answering the call..

Landline phone with 3D words "Voice mail" coming off the screenTherefore, you should update your voicemail message (make sure you have a professional voicemail message).  If you have one of those humorous messages that says you are out on the golf course or it says “hello? hello? hello? Hah hah gotcha! This is actually my voicemail so leave me a message” then please change it!  I appreciate that you have a sense of humor, but when you are in active job search mode now’s the time to be serious and not everyone may share your style of humor.  

If your voicemail is that default computer voice or says nothing and just goes straight to the beep then that is equally as bad. A busy recruiter or hiring manager may not appreciate you wasting their time and if they think they may also have the wrong number they may hang up and not call back….so you run the risk of losing out on a potential interview.  

I am one of those recruiters that has a lengthy call list of people to contact and if I’m not sure I’ve reached the correct person, I may just hang up and move on to my next call….and once I have filled my interview slots, no matter how great your resume was, you may get bumped off my list. To avoid this, have a concise and professional message that states your name, so the caller knows they have reached the correct person. 

Another thing I want you to be prepared with is always keep a pen and paper handy with you or near your phone or have a notes app on your mobile phone. If you’re on a headset or can use speaker phone, you can pull up the app while you are talking. As much as possible you want to be prepared with questions handy for when an interviewer calls you.  

Some recruiters and interviewers will email you rather than phone and that’s okay. Personally I prefer to phone people because I like to hear what they sound like, how they answer their phone, and if they do exactly what I just finished explaining not to do  like answering an unknown call in the middle of a noisy environment. 

When you ARE on the call – Pay attention and take note of the caller’s name, their title and what company they are calling from in case you need to call them back.  They may be a recruiter or an assistant calling to schedule you for an interview with someone else. Make sure you ask for the names and job titles of the people that will be interviewing you.

Now let’s move onto the 4 questions you should ask when you do speak to the caller. They don’t necessarily need to be asked in this order:

Question #1: Is There A Written Job Description I Can Obtain? 

 Don’t assume the posting you applied for is the full job description – it likely isn’t.  Magnify glass on a job description

Public sector (government-based) organizations will usually have a link to the full job description in their posting or on their application site. However, most private companies will only post a basic scope and qualifications required for the position not the full responsibilities of the role.  

It is important to try to obtain a copy of the full job description because most of the interview questions will be related to the requirement and responsibilities of the role …. and it can help tremendously in anticipating the types of questions you may be asked which will help you to be better prepared with strong answers. 

If a company is small, new or the position is a newly created role, it is possible they may not have a job description developed yet.  If this is the case, do an online search by job title, the words job description and the industry. As an example, “Operations Manager Job Description in Manufacturing” this should find several job descriptions through a variety of websites. It is important to review at least 3 job descriptions by the same title to identify similarities in the role and use this as a basis to help determine what types of questions may be asked.  

Question #2: What Is the Type of Interview? 

It is very important to ask what type of interview to expect.  How many people will you be meeting with? Who you will be meeting with (names and titles) etc.? There are many types of interviews such as: 

  • Pre-screening Interviews
  • Scheduled Telephone or Video Interviews
  • Traditional One-to-One Interviews
  • Sequenced Interviews
  • Panel Interviews
  • Team Interviews
  • Group Interviews

To prepare effectively for your interview, it helps to know what to expect; performing well in your interview is due to 75% preparation and 25% execution.  

Question #3: What Is the Length?

Black and whit clockI highly recommend asking how long the interview is expected to be. Preparing for a 10-minute, half-hour, ninety-minute or 2-hour interview is very different and will help you anticipate how many questions you will be asked. Plus, if you were expecting it to be only an hour and it goes on for 2 there is nothing worse than having to ask to use the bathroom halfway through an interview.  

Regardless of how long the interview is, I always recommend taking your own bottle of water with you.  While most professional HR people will offer or provide you with a glass of water at the interview, never assume.  Some people just don’t think to offer that courtesy, and there is nothing worse than getting dry mouth due to nerves or anxiety and then your tongue starts sticking to the roof of your mouth when you are trying to talk.  

Question #4: Will There Be Any Testing Scheduled? 

This is an optional question depending on your line of work and if you want to know in advance if there might be any testing involved. If you are applying for an administrative or financial support role for example you may be asked to perform typing speed tests, numerical accuracy, spelling, grammar, or math assessments. If you are in a technical role such as programmer or software developer you may be asked to perform a code-writing exercise.  In a graphic design, marketing, or communications role, you may be asked to perform an assignment to demonstrate your design or writing skills. 

Some companies perform personality, psychological, IQ, EQ, or competency assessments as part of their routine hiring practices to help determine a candidate fit with the team or company culture.  

I recommend having a bit of a strategy in mind if you are offered a choice of appointment time. Try to choose or arrange a time that is when you are at your best energy level.  If you are not a morning person, then don’t pick an early morning. If you tend to fall asleep at your desk at 3pm then perhaps afternoons are not the best time for you.  

Here’s my inside secret – As an interviewer I always remember the first candidate because they set the bar and the tone for that interview project, I also always remember the last person I interview.  If I am interviewing 10 people over the course of several days….it is easy to forget those that don’t stand out. So ideally I suggest trying to be First in the week or day to set the benchmark! or last to leave a lasting impression! 

What you’ve learned here today is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to job search strategies and tips. To learn more, check out my YouTube channel (VirtualJobSearchCoach), where I post new content every week to help job seekers like you, determine, pursue, and land their dream job!

If you would like one-to-one coaching to equip you with the confidence, necessary tools, critical knowledge, and strategies to find and land your ideal job  – then let’s talk! You can book a complimentary 15-minute discovery call directly in my calendar at https://calendly.com/virtualstacey and let’s chat about how I can help you fast-track your job search success.

Written by Stacey Davidson

Hi, I’m Stacey Davidson, after 18 years mostly in recruitment, HR, and management roles, I left the corporate world, became certified as a Professional in Career Management and started my own business in 2008 as a Career Coach, Job Search Strategist, Resume Writer, Contract Recruiter and I’m an expert in Behavioural-based interviewing. (I know, It’s a lot of hats!) For the past 12 years I’ve been teaching and empowering people just like you to define their dream job, power up their Job Search, and land in a career they love. My goal is to positively impact the lives of 1 million job seekers over the next 20 years. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more great info and resources.

September 5, 2020

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