Like it or not, you will end up doing a phone interview at some point. Phone interviews have become the norm for screening candidates as a first step. They’re efficient, and you can be efficiently eliminated from the interview process if you don’t present well on the phone.
On the other hand, if you do well during the phone interview, you’re on to next steps. Typically one to two rounds of in-person interviews, some reference calls and (fingers crossed) an offer to join the team!
So how do you build up the confidence to nail the phone interview and ensure you make it to next steps? I’m highlighting 20 phone interview tips for you below…
Before the phone interview
- Confirm the call logistics – Know who is responsible for calling who, and double check the time zone so you don’t miss the call.
- Mark it on your calendar and set reminders – Give yourself some buffer time before and after the call. You don’t want to be rushing from one thing to the next, or stressing if the interview runs long.
- Do your research – Study the company’s website, look up your interviewer on LinkedIn and check to see if you have any mutual connections or shared interests to bond over.
- Practice – Whip yourself into talking shape, by getting off text and exercising those vocal cords. Grab a friend to practice with or play pretend by yourself, but get on the phone and talk it out.
Day of the phone interview
- Ensure good reception – If your dorm room is known to drop connections all the time, find a new spot. You don’t want to be apologizing during a phone interview because your call keeps dropping.
- Eliminate background noise and distractions – Find a quiet space and tell your friends to leave you alone. We’ve all seen the viral videos showcasing what happens if you don’t…
- Dress up – Act as if you’re actually at an in-person interview. a) We tend to feel good and perform better when we look good. b) What happens if they ask you to jump on video and you’re in your pjs?
- Have your resume on hand – A copy of your resume and any other helpful materials should be with you during the phone interview. One of the benefits of phone interviews is getting to have your “cheat sheet” materials available for quick reference when responding to questions.
During the phone interview
- Stand up – This may seem like a weird one to you, but I stand up/walk around just about every time I’m on a phone interview. It will keep your energy up and you’ll come across with more confidence than if you’re slouched in a chair (or even worse lying in your bed).
- Speak up – Say no to mumbling or speaking softly, or anything that forces your interviewer to ask you to speak up (#facepalm).
- Smile as you speak – You don’t get to communicate via body language on a phone interview, but a smile is the next best thing. When you smile, the tone of your voice naturally changes to a more positive and inviting one. And it will help trick your mind to eliminate some of your nervous energy as well.
- Greet for the sake of clarity – Answering the phone with “Hello, this is [Your Name]” tells the interviewer that you’re prepared and expecting their call. It is a lot more professional than answering the phone like you would with one of your buddies — “Hey!” doesn’t fly here.
- Pace yourself – No need to race through the call. It’s OK to pause and take a couple moments in order to give a thoughtful answer. You can say something along the lines of “Great question, give me a quick moment to think of a specific example for you.”
- Participate in active listening – This has a couple benefits. 1) The occasional and brief verbal affirmations (“Sure”, “Got it”, “Interesting”, “I know”) tell the interviewer you are engaged. 2) It keeps you from trailing off into your next thought and completely missing what was just said.
- Be concise – Phone interviews are typically on the shorter side (30-45 minutes), so don’t go long with any one answer. Keep your answers focused and ensure the interviewer gets to ask all of their questions. You can always revisit a topic at the end of the call if there is time.
- Take notes – Our brain is pretty good at tricking us into thinking we’ll remember the important points. Let me save you some trouble — You won’t. Write things down throughout the call so you capture what they say and can follow up with relevant questions.
- Ask questions – No matter what type of interview, you better be asking thoughtful questions. Some interviewers will judge your interview based entirely on the questions you ask them. Use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that you did your research on the company, show them that you’ve been listening throughout the call and clarify specifics about the company and role that aren’t already offered up on the job description.
- Confirm next steps – When they start to wrap up and ask if you have any final questions, make sure you understand next steps. It’s OK to ask them “What is your process from here, and when should I expect to hear from you?”. If you don’t have an email address for the person who interviewed you, be sure to ask for that as well so that you can send them a thank you.
After the phone interview
- Send a thank you – Never forget the thank you. Whether you are sending it via email, or snail mail, write and send your thank you the same day as your phone interview. Companies tend to move quickly, and it would be a shame if they pass on you because you were slow with your follow up.
- Follow up – If the person who interviewed you is different from the person running the hiring process, then be sure to cover your bases and follow up with the one in charge. Let them know you enjoyed speaking with their colleague over the phone and are looking forward to next steps. And if you haven’t heard from anyone by the time they said you would, it’s OK to check in over email.
If you land a phone interview, take a moment to put your nerves aside and celebrate! You’re one step closer to landing your dream internship or job. OK…now stop celebrating and go back to preparing with these phone interview tips. Time to make them love you.