In today’s modern digital world, it’s not that uncommon for job interviews to be held in a wide variety of mediums including on the phone.
However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat the phone interview as seriously than any other standard interview. In fact, you should be even more prepared!
Bear in mind that you can’t see the other person’s facial expressions and any other physical cues. And even when you’re having a video call with them, you can’t see their overall body language so you’d have to be extra careful with your words, the volume of your voice, the background noise, and a whole lot more.
So to help you prepare for your next phone interview, we asked experts to share the best tips on how to efficiently handle the call.
Table of Contents
- Remote interviews are a critical part of the hiring process
- Prepare for the interview exactly as if you were going to be interviewing in person
- Prior to the interview
- During the interview
- After the interview
- Extra tips:
- Take time to prepare for this situation
- Don’t get to relax because it’s a phone interview and not an in-person interview
- Know what topics are likely to come up in advance
- Build a collection of answer scripts on cards
- Take it seriously
- Learn to become comfortable
- This is the perfect opportunity to practice your active listening
- A well thought out and intelligent question can be a game changer
- It is important to dial into the auditory cues
- Frequently Asked Questions
Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired)
Remote interviews are a critical part of the hiring process
These days, relatively few ‘initial‘ job interviews occur face-to-face. Instead, those preliminary interviews are often done remotely via telephone (or Skype) to weed out inappropriate candidates, leaving only the so-called cream of the crop to be interviewed in person (often at significant expense to the organization).
And while these remote interviews tend to be relatively short (often lasting a little more than 30 minutes), they are still a critical part of the hiring process. So when preparing for this type of interview, keep in mind the following.
Interview candidates are often offered multiple time slots to choose from, so try to pick a slot that best fits your energy level. For example, if you are most energetic in the morning (but run out of gas by 3:00 p.m.), try to avoid a late afternoon interview.
When being interviewed remotely (possibly at home), you might be tempted to dress a bit casually for the interview session. But how you dress generally impacts your behavior. So dress professionally — as you would for a face-to-face business meeting.
People tend to sound more genuine when their facial expressions are in sync with their words. So have a good-sized mirror positioned near the phone (or next to the computer screen) so that you can see your face as you talk. And remember to smile during the introductions — and when thanking the interviewers for their time at the end of the call.
You will likely be told in advance how long the interview is expected to last. But if the subject does not come up during the scheduling process, definitely ask!
Make sure that you have plenty of time available in your schedule so that you can thoroughly answer all of the questions being asked without feeling rushed should the interview happen to run for an hour or more.
Loud music, crying children or barking dogs that can be heard in the background are distractions that you want to avoid. Even if they don’t bother you, that noise may irritate some of the folks on the interview team at the other end of the line.
And, in any case, that sort of background distraction will likely project an unprofessional image. So plan to take the call at a quiet location that will be free of any disruptions.
Have paper and pencil at hand
Quickly jot down the names of the interview team during introductions so that you can later call them by name. Also quickly take short notes on any information that they may provide early on. You may want to use some of that information later when addressing their interview questions.
Be thorough, but keep answers as short as possible
Does a three sentence explanation need four paragraphs of background information? Unnecessary (or off-topic) information in long-winded answers will often annoy interviewers — especially if they have a lengthy list of questions to ask. So when you think that you have answered a question, stop talking!
In advance of the interview, do a fair amount of research on the company, its industry, its customers and the specific job in question. The organization’s Web site is a good place to begin your search.
President, Cox Innovations
Prepare for the interview exactly as if you were going to be interviewing in person
This includes dressing professionally for the interview even though the interviewer will not see you. It is important that you take the interview just as seriously as if you had a person across the table not a bud in your ear so give yourself all the familiar cues of its importance.
Remember that you are operating without the benefit of physical cues
Recognize that you are operating without the benefit of physical cues that usually make the conversation flow naturally. Thus you want to err on the side of long pauses during the transitions from the interviewer speaking to you speaking (and vice versa) rather than erring on the side of interrupting the speaker.
You want that person to get their thoughts fully out before you respond and while a longer than normal pause may seem a little awkward, it is far better than you interrupting the interviewer repeatedly.
Similarly, if the interviewer interrupts you, do not be offended. That is most likely accidental (not rude) and if you have a prolonged pause after you finish speaking, don’t assume you need to fill that void with talking. The interviewer may be employing the same strategy as you to avoid talking over you.
Choose the location from which you take the call wisely
You want quiet and the ability to focus. A coffee shop is a terrible place to take a phone interview. Not only do you risk having distracting sirens in the background or a loud patron adjacent to you, you also give yourself lots of distractions that invite your attention to wander. Instead, find a quiet room devoid of distractions. This means no television even if it is muted.
Have a few notes prepared and a copy of your resume
Have a few notes prepared and a copy of your resume printed on paper in front of you. You should be able to anticipate some of the questions likely to come up. In addition to practicing answering these questions BEFORE the interview, have a few bullet points on paper to help remind you of what you want to say.
This will help get you back on track (or ideally never leave the track) if you feel yourself getting stuck or going mentally blank. Do not write out complete answers because you will be tempted to read them verbatim which will come across as inauthentic, but bullet points can safely jar your memory in a pinch.
Have a list of questions for the interviewer
Similarly, have a list of questions for the interviewer so you aren’t having to think quickly when given the opportunity to turn the tables and ask your interviewer for some information.
Just as you would never read text messages or emails during an in-person email, fight the urge to do this while on the phone. Unless you are connected over your computer, I advise having your computer turned off for the interview.
Establish how to get back in contact
Make sure that at the beginning of the call you establish how to get back in contact if the call gets disconnected for any reason (who is calling who at what number). It is best to use a landline to reduce the likelihood of disconnecting, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to establish these expectations at the beginning of the call.
Do use a hands-free device if possible
You don’t want your arm to tire from holding the phone and you don’t want to distract yourself and miss something the interviewer says while you are shifting the phone from ear to ear.
Have a pen and paper ready to take notes and actually take notes as you go. Don’t be so involved in taking notes that you disengage from the conversation, but do be ready to capture interesting pieces of information, especially pieces of information you might want to revisit with questions later in the interview.
This shouldn’t be like taking notes during a university lecture, but if something pops into your head that you might want to remember later, jot it down.
Have a glass of water with you and be ready for the call five minutes before the scheduled time and have at least 15 minutes of flexibility at the end of the call in case you are fortunate enough to have an interview go so well that it runs long.
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
Phone interviews can be used as screeners and should be treated just as important as face to face meetings. My advice is to:
- Stand up for the call. Your voice will sound stronger and more confident through the phone.
- Smile when you speak. It will come through more warmly in the call.
- Always write a thank you note or e-mail after. It shows professional skills and manners and helps you stand out reminding them of your strengths and interest.
- Do lots of homework. Take it as seriously as a face to face meeting the goal is to make it through the phone screen to get to the next round of discussions so you can continue the conversation.
Kevin Lindon Ryan
Founder, KLR PR
Growing up, I hated talking on the phone. When I started interviewing for jobs, I would get so nervous showing up for in-person interviews because of the pressure— arrive on time, look your best, wear business professional attire, bring six copies of your resume, even though, if you’re a millennial like me, you likely don’t have a printer, which means trips to FedEx or UPS. Geez!
Even though my handshake was bad, and I may or may not have been sweating from the rush of a commute to the employer’s office, I still hated phone interviews enough to prefer in-person, where I could show my personality and charm, make eye contact, and meet face-to-face.
That is until I became a black belt in connecting with hiring managers over the phone and showcasing my skills and experience using only my voice and cell phone data.
Wear good shoes. Nothing will make you more confident and in the professional mindset over the phone like your best shoes. Watch yourself slip into the role because you’re well-supported and in business gear.
Good shoes will prevent you from becoming too casual-sounding, especially you’re at home and otherwise dressed in pajamas. I won’t judge, but please, pair your flannels with your best dress shoes instead of bunny slippers.
Walk while you talk. In phone interviews, you have the freedom to pace around the room, get out of your chair, do jumping jacks, and even look like a fool outside your current office building on your lunch break in the middle of a polar vortex because you need some privacy.
Have your laptop open and your resume and the job description in front of you. When you’re not referencing your CV, you may consider viewing the hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile. Even if you did this prior to the phone interview because you’re well-prepared, it’s helpful to see the hiring manager’s photo while you talk over the phone, and it’s a handy reminder of their background and experience.
Founder, Zoomers Employment Services
Please consider my following perspective in regards to Phone Interview Tips.
Prior to the interview
- Ensure you have the phone number and backup number of the interviewer.
- Be aware of call-in process.
- Ensure you have the needed equipment for the call, this is especially true if it is a conference call or video call.
- Ensure you have provided the correct contact number of the interviewer and a backup number if that one fails.
- Check the volume of your phone, perhaps call someone the night before to test the volume.
During the interview
- DO NOT answer any other calls, this is a must.
- Ensure you are in a quiet space where you are able to hear and speak.
- Write down questions and answers. If the phone interview is successful it may lead to a second interview. this will be handy information for that prep.
- Be aware of the time, most interviews don’t last longer than 1 hour so time management will ensure you do not ramble.
- Listen closely to pauses and non-verbals such as sighing this may be a sign of whether you are connecting with the interviewer.
- Do not use this time to multitask such as checking emails during the call use active listening and stay engaged.
After the interview
- Ensure the line has been disconnected (many have said information thinking a call has ended that has with regret).
- Send thank you email for the interview mentioning unique discussion points (this should be done for every interview).
- Consider smiling right before speaking the first word. This will bring your tone to a positive level communicating interest and active listening skills.
- If the phone interview is a video phone call be aware this is the equivalent of a face-to-face interview so ensure you have dressed appropriately and the visual backdrop behind the camera is appropriate.
- Finally, I believe interviewees should be aware telephone interviews are difficult. 80% of communication is non-verbal and as a result, when the verbal is removed it is tough to gauge whether an interviewees message is being received. Stay positive.
Mike “Batman” Cohen
Founder, Wayne Technologies, Inc.
The first piece of advice I give to anyone doing a phone interview is to smile!
It sounds silly because there is no one in the room with you, but you can always tell when the person on the other end of the phone is smiling. It makes a difference.
The next important piece is one of preparation – phone screens are primarily used to gather general background information and also culture-fit. Be ready to talk about the following: your reason for leaving (past 3 jobs), what you’re looking for in your next job/company, what you’ve been working on in detail, but succinctly, what your schedule looks like for an on-site interview when you could start a new job, and compensation.
Last – be yourself! The interviewer is looking for your personality to make sure you’ll fit into the organization and the team. Yes, you should be professional, but you should be yourself. It’s okay to be funny, or quirky, or vulnerable. You want the hiring manager to know who you are as a person.
If the hiring manager doesn’t think “who you are” lines up with their organization or team, then that’s okay! You’re not going to be a fit for every company, and you don’t want to be. You will find a company that you love, and that loves you too.
Founder & Editor, MBAchic
Take time to prepare for this situation
Phone interviews are a great way for companies to assess and filter through a large number of applicants, very quickly. It less resource-heavy on the employer’s side, and doesn’t require an office or campus visit from you (nor do you need to request a half-day off from your current job).
It’s not easy to make a good first impression on the phone, but it’s not impossible! Take time to prepare for this unique (but pretty common) situation, and you’ll fly through to the next stage.
Do your homework and prep flashcards
Research the company, the department, earnings reports, understand what’s happening at a macro level, including their social media presence and conversations happening online, and then understand and prepare for the job itself, at the micro level.
Read up on everything and prepare answers to common interview questions. Prep these answers on large index cards, so you won’t be flipping through papers while on the phone call if you’re asked a question and need to refer to your notes.
Get out of your pajamas
It’s a phone interview, yes, but there’s something about putting on a jacket or collared blouse that puts you in a different mindset. Different from the one you’re in while wearing yoga pants. Do yourself a favor and get out of your pajamas, even if you’re going to change right back into them when you hang up.
Don’t take the call sitting down
The way your voice sounds while curled up on your couch is different from the way it sounds while you’re standing up. You project more confidence and frankly, more life and energy.
Answer the call while standing at your kitchen counter, preferably with a mirror nearby (it’ll help you enunciate your words and maintain your energy). Also, layout those flashcards you prepped earlier, all over your counter, so you can refer to anything you need without fumbling through.
Stop talking, and breathe. Literally
The phone interview might feel quick, but take your time and breathe. You may feel the need to talk the entire time, squeezing your accomplishments and ideas into every free second, but slow down and make it a conversation.
Actively listen to your interviewer’s questions, and respond to points within them. Show some personality while outlining your game plan to add value to their team.
Researching common questions is fairly easy to do – make sure you’re looking up domain questions, and behavioral questions. If you are armed with the knowledge you need and take these tips into consideration while prepping, you’ll soar on to the next interview in no time. Good luck!
Founder, Aurelian Coaching
TIP #1. Because you don’t have the benefit of reading body language during a phone interview, you will need to listen carefully and build rapport with the interviewer by mirroring the tone and tenor of their voice, as well as the energy they are giving off through the phone.
If they are excited and energetic, bring your excited and energetic self to the call. If they are serious and measured in their questions, be serious and measured in your answers.
TIP #2. The phone interview is your opportunity to leave a strong impression. Unless there is something in your work history that is truly spectacular, making a strong impression probably won’t come from rehashing your resume.
The best way to make a strong impression is to ask extremely thoughtful and provocative questions. You want to shoot for the interviewer’s response to be, “Oh! That’s really interesting, no one has asked that before.”
Some questions along these lines are, “What would you say your biggest pain points are in accomplishing the team’s goals this year?” or, “What has been the team’s greatest accomplishment in the last year or so? What are you really proud of?” or, “What is the company’s M.O. for employee recognition?“
From the already employed point of view (the interviewer), here are my suggestions:
Clearly, have job descriptions written out in advance that discuss the potential candidate’s desired experience and desired characteristics.
Hard skills such as accounting, coding, programming, marketing and so forth will be easy to check for in the interview process with appropriate questions.
Soft skills such as leadership, patience, attention to detail, and more will also be fleshed out more fully in the interview.
Write out 5-10 questions in advance that seek to uncover the desired experience and traits as listed above.
- Ensure that every candidate that is interviewed (via phone, Skype or in person) is given the same questions to ensure fairness and consistency.
- Speak clearly and repeat the question. We interview a lot of candidates where English is not the first language so enunciating well is key to a positive experience for both sides of the interview. The same goes for using slang or colloquialisms.
- Set the tone for the interview early by telling the candidate what the process will be, i.e.: questions to get to know him/her for 40 minutes followed by 10 minutes of discussion about the position completed with 10 minutes for questions by the candidate. Make sure they know what to expect before you begin the interview.
- Hold firmly to the time originally allotted. This is as much for the interviewer as the interviewee and demonstrates respect for the other person as well as yourself. It also gives the impression to the candidate that the company adheres to deadlines.
- If running late, text the person to let them know. Candidates view tardiness without communication as an interviewer would—unfavorably.
- If the candidate has more questions than time allows, offer to answer them in email or online for the candidate to research more about the position/company. The candidate should also respect your time and you are free to end the session once the allotted time has been fully utilized.
Co-founder & CEO, Lasting Trend
Take it as seriously as an in-person interview. When interviewing over the phone, you have the luxury of not having to dress up, drive to some building, and meet some stranger who is going to ask you a bunch of questions. Now all you have to deal with ais a stranger’s voice asking you a bunch of questions over the phone.
Regardless, you may want to take somewhat of a nonchalant approach to this. While you understand that this is still a serious call, you may decide to not leave the bed and do the interview in your pajamas while eating a bowl of Wheaties with the t.v. on. This very scenario is a recipe for disaster.
You can’t stay focus on the interview correctly when you have other things taking your attention nor are you in the right state of mind when you decide to have an interview in your pajamas. My advice: change into something a little more serious, withhold the food for now and go into a quiet area that’s void of distractions – your potential job is on the line here.
Owner, Highwater Standard
Don’t get to relax because it’s a phone interview and not an in-person interview
Just because it’s not an in-person interview, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take this just as serious. You can tell when someone isn’t taking the interview seriously because you will find that they are constantly distracted and lost, can’t repeat the things you said back to you, they’re giving you half-baked answers, and the list goes on.
The thing you must realize is that an interview over the phone does not mean that you can brush this off as an unimportant interview.
A lot of interviewees get this idea that an interview over the phone is not as important as an interview in person. This is false. An interview over the phone is just as important, if not more so because aceing an interview over the phone is a lot harder than acing one in person.
In an in-person interview, they’re many ways to impress your interviewer: clean and professional attire, coming in ready with papers on hand, a bright smile, interacting with the other workers there, using professional body language, a firm handshake, and etc.
When you’re over the phone you only have a few ways to impress them. You can’t use your looks or body language or a firm handshake and bright smile, all you have is your words and ears.
Director, Market Recruitment
Phone interviews are often part of the pre-screening process so you want to bear this in mind as you prepare for the interview.
Here are my top recommendations:
- Always have your essential documents ready these include your resume, notes about the company, and job description to guide you when answering questions.
- Take notes of the interviewer’s most important points to remain engaged with the process and to ensure that you answer questions accurately.
- Keep your answers precise. Avoid the temptation to go off on a tangent as this will make the interviewer lose interest quickly.
- Focus on showing how you can use your experience and expertise to help the new company attain its goals. For example, provide specific examples of how you solved problems in the past.
- Seek to connect with the interviewer. Make an appropriate joke, talk a little about your hobbies and interest etc. These little exchanges can make a memorable impression on the interviewer.
- Make a list of thoughtful questions to show your interest in the company and the position. For example, ask about the company culture, specific challenges in the role you are interviewing for, day-to-day requirements of the job, the company’s long-term goals.
- At the close of the interview, do not be afraid to ask what the next steps are and how soon you should follow up.
- Lastly, just like an in-person interview, dress the part and be sure to research about the company– this will go a long way in making a good impression.
General Manager, HandyKith
Write key topics and hints down in the interview. Go ahead and write down some of the important parts of the interview. This is especially important when we’re talking about a phone interview because your brain won’t remember much from this time.
Your brain works in multiple different ways and it remembers things using multiple different touch points. The way a place looked, smelled, the things that we’re heard, the people you met, etc.
When having a phone interview you lack a lot of those touch points so it can be hard to remember what went on and the things said at the time. Having the important points in the conversation written down is a smart move and it will give you something to refer to before the next interview.
Managing Director, Out of the Box Innovations Ltd.
Before a telephone interview, it’s normal to be nervous, everyone experiences this. Nerves lead to mistakes, awkward pauses, and even worse, silence fillers like sheepish ‘umms‘, ‘ahhs‘ and ‘no what I mean’s‘.
Know what topics are likely to come up in advance
Before the call, you know what topics are likely to come up in advance. All the questions about you, your past education, experience, and interests will be the same for every interview. Likewise, there will be industry-related topics that are likely to come up again and again.
Build a collection of answer scripts on cards
Write, edit, review and polish them until they seem perfect. Then, rehearse them out loud, like an actor learning a script. Once you are about to start the interview, lay the cards out in front of you, ready to grab for a polished response. If a question arises that you do not have an answer for, the chances are that you’ll be in such a flow, you’ll answer that well too.
Just remember to create a new card with anything fresh that comes up on each interview. Keep these cards stored. They can build over your career, to save time and help with memory recall as you get older.
Marketing Manager, Audi Westmont
Take it seriously
Prepare for your phone interview just as you would for an in-person interview. Set time to go over some interview questions prior and be prepared to call or answer minutes before the interview is scheduled.
Warm-up your vocal cords
If your interview is in the morning, you want to make sure your vocal cords are warmed up. You don’t want to answer the phone with an overly-tired morning voice because it may come off as unprepared.
If you’re receiving the call, make sure you answer professionally. Greet the interviewer followed by your full name. This helps the interviewer know they’re contacting the correct person and that you’re prepared.
Don’t rely on resources
Relying on responses from the internet might not be the best option. You don’t want to look up the ‘best interview responses’ and control + find questions you’re asked. This could cause awkward pauses and an unnatural conversation.
Instead, do your research prior and prepare for what you’re going to say. If you move forward to an in-person interview you won’t be able to have resources in front of you so it’s best to practice now.
Most headphones have a microphone which will help the interviewer hear your responses clearly. It also helps cut down background noise, but you should still plan on being in a quiet location for the call.
HR Advisor | Published Writer
- Definitely rehearse. This may be your one and only shot at landing a formal interview. Take the time to rehearse, as one would for a play or a proposal.
- Interview where it is quiet. Nothing screams unprofessional like a noisy background.
- Have your list of “must mentions”. The thing that really qualifies you for the role – list of projects, awards, recognition, etc. You never want to sound like your scrambling. This means that you are unprepared and that creams unprofessional.
- Research the company and even your interviewer. Tell the Recruiter why you want to work for the company- not an objective statement- “I want to work for a strong company“- but research- “I noticed that in July of 2017, Company name spearheaded an initiative to feed 5K homeless people. This resonates with me because of XYZ”.
- This is a great time for questions about the company and department. Interviews are a 2-way street. Recruiters expect that you have questions. This shows interest and passion for the organization.
Search Engine Marketing Specialist, Summit Digital Marketing
Learn to become comfortable
In my own experience with phone interviews, I have learned to become comfortable selling myself without having face-to-face contact. In fact, I got my current job right out of college because I had a memorable phone interview.
My biggest piece of advice is to share a glimpse of yourself that is not related to the job with your interviewer. Because this isn’t a face-to-face meeting, you have to make yourself stand out of the multiple numbers the company has called before and after you.
When you share a piece of yourself that’s most vulnerable, you make an impression. Share some of your biggest passions. Talk about your big goals in life. Express the excitement for your favorite sports team!
Do something that your interviewer can identify you with besides the person that said: “they have great leadership skills”.
In my phone interview, I talked about how I was so passionate about mission work. Turns out, my employer is equally as passionate about this and we had a great conversation that made me stick out from the crowd.
If you’re worried about going too off-script, talk about where you LEARNED your leadership skills or how you found your weaknesses. Leave your interviewer with the lasting impression that they want to learn more about you.
Related: 24 Best Leadership Books of All Time
Executive Associate, Moshes Law
This is the perfect opportunity to practice your active listening
The great thing about phone interviews is that now you can showcase to the interviewer how great of a listener you are. People seem to have an issue with listening and staying focus at times and as an interviewer, you’re not always sure if the person you’re interviewing is really listening.
As the person getting interviewed, take this time to practice ‘active listening’. Meaning using little quips and repeating back their statements to let them know you are actually listening and understanding what is being said.
This shows that you are someone who doesn’t just hear things being said but you’re intensively listening to what they have to say and gathering the necessary key elements in the conversation.
Digital Marketing Executive, YourParkingSpace
A well thought out and intelligent question can be a game changer
When preparing for a phone interview, research the company! And even the interviewer on LinkedIn if possible. Think of some questions to ask. A well thought out and intelligent question can be a game changer.
If you’re like me and have multiple notebooks for many obscure topics, then I suggest you take notice of this next bit of advice. you most likely have applied for many different positions. In which case, it is a good idea to make a note in a rememberable notepad or in an online account of all the different applications you have made and any important details so that you can keep track.
Another idea is to make a note of the tasks you will be performing if successful, stated in the job description. If you know how to talk about these future tasks and can reel off the keywords and terminology, you are sure to impress.
Be prepared for the following questions:
- Tell me a bit about yourself.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your plans for the future?
During the interview, take steps to make yourself feel comfortable, but not too comfortable. It is a good idea to get yourself ready as you would for an interview in person. This will hopefully keep you on edge in that optimal zone with that nervous excitement of a possible opportunity.
Find yourself a nice, quiet area away from distractions. Lay out your CV, cover letter, job description, and any self-motivational notes, so you are prepared for the curveball. Keep a pen and notepad handy.
And remember to breathe. Good luck.
Digital and Content Marketing Specialist, Talkative
For a lot of people, a phone interview can be nerve-racking, particularly if the candidate receives the phone call unexpectedly. Some people find this exciting and are able to keep calm and collected, but for others, a phone interview can be an uncomfortable experience. The problem for the latter group of people is that usually, the more you want the job, the more nerve-racking it can be.
This is an issue when you’re trying to show your best side to a prospective employer, so here are a couple of useful tips which can help to make the situation a little easier to manage:
Smile while you talk – A phone interview is normally the first time the prospective employer will interact with you in person, so it’s important to pay attention to the first impression they’ll be making of you.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can hide behind the phone call- it can be harder for the employer to get a feel for who you are, so you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can come across well.
Think about your tone of voice – do you sound bored or monotone? The interviewer can’t see your face, your body language, the way you’re dressed, so this all has to be projected through the way you speak.
You ideally want to sound confident, relaxed, motivated and friendly, but equally, you don’t want to come across as bullish, arrogant or disingenuous.
A great way to achieve a perfect balance is through smiling. You can really tell in someone’s voice when they are smiling; they sound more upbeat and their voice is more melodic. Not only this, but smiling produces endorphins so will actually help you to feel more confident in what you’re saying.
Overall, this makes for an enjoyable conversation and paints a positive first impression which will stand you in good stead.
Don’t exaggerate your knowledge. The pressure can be high on a phone interview, and we all want to show the interviewer that we are competent and know what we are talking about. A pitfall of many phone interviewees is that they try too hard to impress by exaggerating their knowledge and faking their way through the conversation.
The fact is, most employers will have a much deeper understanding of what you’re talking about and will be able to tell quite quickly that you’re just, well… bullsh*tting.
This will give the impression that you’re not honest and puts you on the back foot during the interview, decreasingly your likelihood of getting the job.
Instead, be confident in talking about what you do know, and if there’s something you don’t know or are unsure of, just explain that you don’t have much expertise in that area yet but are willing to learn.
Marketing Strategist, Duckpin
As a guy who spent nearly a year and a half trying to land a job overseas in Doha, Qatar from Washington, DC, I became pretty accustomed to doing phone interviews (and waking up early to accommodate the 7 hour time difference).
Through these experiences, I learned that it was helpful to anticipate some basics and jot down notes to guide my answers.
For example, I would often get the question of why, as a guy who went for a master’s in conflict resolution, I wanted to work in advertising.
Rather than recite my CV and potentially bore the interviewer, I crafted a personal story about how the skills I took from my history and international relations degrees, notably communication, research, and writing skills, would be strengths in advertising.
I also would incorporate, as relevant, funny anecdotes to lighten the mood and make the conversation more memorable.
The bottom line for making your phone interview stand-out:
Approach a phone interview as a storytelling opportunity and develop yours beforehand so that it blends professional accomplishments and relevant personality-revealing anecdotes.
Related: How to Get Better at Storytelling?
If you do this, I believe you greatly increase the chances of your conversation being remembered among the numerous other ones being done by an employer and hopefully resulting in an offer.
Presentations Skills Coach, BMcTALKS, LLC
Stand during your phone interview.
It can be tempting to sit during the interview, preferably at a desk where you can easily access your notes or where you think you will feel most comfortable; however, there are 4 big reasons why sitting during this performance – because let’s face it; you are performing in an interview – is not as effective as standing.
First, standing rather than sitting during your phone interview positions you to breathe properly, which gives your voice greater strength and clarity. When you stand while speaking, your naturally good posture can now let the air do the work of carrying the sound of your voice as you speak.
You are better positioned to fill your diaphragm, not your lungs, while you speak, and it’s having air in your diaphragm that will position your words to float on air and carry; it’s having air in your diaphragm that will cause your voice to project and sound confident.
Second, when you stand during your phone interview, you are more likely to gesture, which can result in you sounding more comfortable and more confident.
However, when you sit for the phone interview, you can feel constrained and confined to that limited space, minimizing the amount of gesturing you would do if you were standing; you may even find yourself squirming in your seat, anxiously counting down the minutes until the interview ends.
Consider this: just as one can “hear” a smile on the phone, one can “hear” gestures, and gesturing while on the phone “shows” your personality and “shows” you are passionate.
Next, standing keeps you from crossing your legs; more importantly, it keeps both your feet on the ground, which makes it possible for you to perform better at answering complex questions. According to body language experts, this has to do with being able easily to go back and forth between the limbic reptilian part of your brain to the neocortex.
Having both your feet planted on the floor can help you go between creative thought and highly complex rational thought, and walking helps sync the left and right hemispheres of the brain, making your answers sharper.
Finally, standing provides a sense of authority; to fully conceptualize this, think of your interview as a presentation. There is a natural sense of authority that comes with a person who is standing at the front.
Now, think about what you relinquish when you sit to give a presentation. If you opt to sit for your interview – for your presentation – then you are opting to give up your authority. Claim your authority, and stand for that phone interview!
Before a phone interview with a large company, I find reading the most recent corporate annual report is a valuable way to prepare.
When I review the company’s history provided in the report as well as the management, discussion & analysis (MD&A) section, I can learn a great deal of useful information about the company.
I look for major items which fall under a high-level SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). Learning about these areas can inform me of the company’s situation and future trajectory. It also provides valuable insight for when it comes time for you to ask questions about the company.
The interviewers will respond positively when they see how well you have prepared for the interview.
Leigh Ann Newman
Owner & Blogger, NansDailyDoseofLife
Here are my top five phone interview tips:
“Arrive” early – If you are calling into a number, dial no less than five minutes before the scheduled meeting time. If it is a webinar scenario, the same rules apply. Never show up late.
Be friendly – When asked a question, respond promptly and with positive emotions when appropriate. Needing to think to formulate a response is natural, but lengthy pauses over the telephone are much more amplified than in person so beware of them.
Be prepared – Don’t ever go into an interview of any kind without a researched understanding of the company you are interviewing with and the ideal characteristics you possess to fill the role. Being prepared shows you care and are invested in the opportunity.
Call from a quiet location – While you may have to do a phone interview from home, this can be chaotic at times. You do not want distracting noises in the background taking center-stage over your well-thought-out responses.
Ask questions – All interviews will give you an opportunity to ask questions at some point throughout the process. Be prepared to ask questions that show you have a real interest in the position.
Keith R. Sbiral
Certified Professional Coach, Apochromatik
A phone interview provides a slightly different challenge. You don’t know what is going on at the other end of the line. How seriously the interview is being taken, and more importantly you don’t have the indicator of body language to help provide a cue to adapt to information that isn’t hitting home.
It is important to dial into the auditory cues
If the interviewer is attempting to interrupt, for instance, you may be taking too long on your answers. While silence can be acceptable during a standard interview, it becomes more uncomfortable during a phone interview, so you should have some ability to “talk with filler” while you prepare to give a home-run response.
Finally, I think it is really important to put your interview clothing on, sit at a desk or table in a very quiet environment similar to an interview and make sure your phone service is adequate. Prepare as though you were interviewing in person and keep your energy high. You should feel just as whipped out after the phone interview as you would in person.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I ensure my phone interview goes smoothly from a technical perspective?
Technical issues can be a major source of frustration during a phone interview. Here are some tips to help you avoid them:
• Test your equipment beforehand, including your phone, headset, and Internet connection.
• Use a landline or reliable cell phone service to ensure a clear connection.
• Use a wired internet connection instead of Wi-Fi to avoid connection issues if possible.
• Ensure you are in a quiet, distraction-free environment to minimize background noise.
• Close any unnecessary apps or browser tabs on your computer to free up resources.
• Have a contingency plan ready in case of technical difficulties, such as a second phone line or a backup plan for rescheduling the interview.
Even with the best preparation, technical problems can occur, so stay calm and flexible in case of unexpected situations.
How can I showcase my skills and experience during a phone interview?
A phone interview is an excellent opportunity to showcase your skills and experience to the interviewer. Here are some tips to help you do that:
• Use specific examples from your past experiences to illustrate your skills and accomplishments.
• Use STAR (situation, task, action, result ) to structure your answers to behavioral questions.
• Be brief and to the point. Avoid rambling or digressing.
• Highlight your relevant experiences and show how they relate to the job you are applying for.
• Emphasize your communication skills, which is a key factor in phone interviews.
• Be confident but not arrogant. Showcase your strengths without coming across as arrogant.
How can I handle unexpected interruptions during a phone interview?
Unexpected interruptions during a phone interview can be frustrating, but there are a few things you can do to handle them:
• Apologize and explain the situation to the interviewer. For example, if a loud noise interrupts the conversation, let the interviewer know a construction site is nearby.
• Remain calm and collected. Don’t let the interruption throw you off or make you flustered.
• Ask to repeat the question if you didn’t understand it because of the interruption.
• If the interruption continues or you are unable to continue the conversation, ask to reschedule for a more convenient time.
• If the interruption is due to a technical problem, such as a dropped call or poor connection, try reconnecting as soon as possible.
Remember that unexpected interruptions are part of life, especially in a phone interview. Your interviewer will likely understand and appreciate that you’re making an effort to handle the situation professionally.
Can I take breaks during a phone interview?
Taking breaks during a phone interview is generally not a good idea. Here’s why:
• Taking breaks can disrupt the flow of the conversation and make it challenging to build rapport with the interviewer.
• The interviewer might interpret breaks as a lack of interest or engagement in the interview.
• The interview might be shorter than expected, and if you take a break, there will be less time to answer questions and make a positive impression.
If you can foresee having to take a break during the interview, it’s better to reschedule the interview for a time when you can give it your full attention. Make sure you are rested and have everything you need (e.g., water or pen and paper) before the interview starts so that you can stay focused and engaged throughout the interview.
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