Phone Interview Tips

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As a recruiter people often ask me for tips prior to a phone interview. People that are quite successful in the business world sometimes have a hard time “selling” themselves. After speaking to countless HR professionals and hiring managers here are some tips that I have learned that can help you ace that next phone interview.

Acing a phone interview like most things in life starts with preparation. Review the company website. Find out what they do that makes them stand out from competitors. If working with a recruiter get as much information about the company as possible. Know the job description. Know what qualifications that they are looking for and be prepared to highlight your skill sets that relate to those qualifications. Review your resume.

You should feel comfortable and ready to discuss your background and skills confidently during a phone conversation.

Practice Interviewing

Talking on the phone about yourself is not always as easy as it seems. As with an in-person interview, practice can be helpful. However, be careful not to prepare so much that you speak too quickly. Slow down and enunciate.

For practice, have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview and record it so you can see how you sound over the phone. Once you have a recording, you’ll be able to hear your “ums” and “uhs” and “okays?” and then practice reducing them from your conversational speech. Listening to the recording will also help you pinpoint answers that you can improve.

Prepare for the call

Use a quiet, comfortable, and private space with no distractions so you can focus on the interview. Make this space as professional as possible. Do not lay down during the interview. Some people find it extremely helpful to dress in a professional manner as this helps to get your mind ready for “business”

  • Keep your resume in clear view, on the top of your desk, or tape it to the wall near the phone, so it’s at your fingertips when you need to answer questions. Know your resume! Know your resume!! Know your resume!!! If you do not know your resume then the interviewer is going to question whether or not you actually did those things or if you are taking credit for something the company did or if it is just “fluff”.
  • Be prepared to explain job changes. Make sure that they makes sense. If you have been fired from a position be upfront and honest. But turn it into a positive by being able to explain what you learned from the situation.
  • Be able to answer the question “where do you see yourself in five years” and make sure that answer makes sense. If you are interviewing for an entry level sales position don’t say that you see yourself as CEO in five years.
  • Have a short list of your accomplishments available to review.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for note taking.
  • If you have a landline, use that instead of your cell phone. That way, you’ll eliminate the possibility of poor reception or dropped calls.

Do’s  During A Phone Interview

  • Do have your elevator speech planned out.
  • Do keep a glass of water handy, in case you need to wet your mouth.
  • Do smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
  • Do speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
  • Do use the person’s title (Mr. or Ms. and their last name.) Only use their first name if they ask you to.
  • Do take your time — it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.
  • Do take notes when possible on what questions came up.
  • Do give clear, concise answers. My English professor in college always liked to say “the key to effective communication is brevity.” 
  • Do remember your goal is to set up a face-to-face interview. At the end of your conversation, after you thank the interviewer, ask if it would be possible to meet in person.
  • Do have a list of 6-10 questions prepared. If you don’t ask questions the interviewer may think that you are not very interested in the role.
  • Do answer the phone yourself, let family members and/or roommates know you are expecting a call. When you answer the phone, answer with your name i.e. Jane Doe (in a perky tone of voice), so the interviewer knows they have reached the right person.
  • Do ask for contact information to send a thank you email or follow up questions.

Don’ts During A Phone Interview

  • Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer. (This can be tough since you practiced and you are excited to share the information that you have practiced saying)
  • Don’t give a 5 minute answer when you can get all of the important information out in two minutes.
  • Don’t Ramble or get off topic.
  • Don’t panic if you need a few seconds to think of a response. But Don’t leave too much dead air.

Follow-Up After the Interview

As the interview winds down, make sure to say thank you to the interviewer. 

Once the interview is over, carefully review any notes you were able to take during the conversation. Jot down what types of questions you were asked, how you responded, and any follow-up questions you may have if you have an opportunity for an in-person interview.

Follow up soon after the call with a thank you note or email that reiterates your interest in the job. If you follow up with an email it is a good chance to explain any answers that you gave that were not as good as they could be. Keep it relatively short. No more than a paragraph or two.

By James Cook 


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