Phone Interview Tips

phone interview tips

Phone interview preparation can seem daunting.

The usual rules of making a good first impression in an interview—sharp outfit, firm handshake, friendly smile?

All out the window.


Not necessarily.

A phone interview just means you’re going to have to prepare a little differently. But you can still convince people that you’re a great fit for their company.

The key is knowing what influences your audience, a.k.a. the person doing the interview. So let’s start there.

The Company’s Perspective on Phone Interviews

Phone interviews help screeners narrow the candidate pool.

The interviewer’s goal is to identify a group of people who best meet the qualifications for the position. Those selected earn a face-to-face interview with decision-makers.

Now that you know the mindset of the person on the other end of the line, here’s your goal:

Make it easy for them.

That is:

Come prepared to show why you’re clearly worthy of inviting in for the next round of interviews.

Here’s how.

9 Tips for Phone Interview Success

1. Pick a Quiet Location

Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes.If you were talking to someone and a dog kept barking or the cell quality was bad, it would give you a bad impression. Right? Don’t do that to the recruiter. Pick a location that’s quiet and where the cell strength is strong. If you’re calling from home, put pets in another room so they won’t distract you. Bring noise-canceling earbuds with you if you must make the call between classes or during a break from your job.

2. Prepare for the Phone Interview

Phone interviewers love to hear that you took the time to research their company. Make sure you review the company’s website and check them out on LinkedIn. Take some notes about what stands out in a positive way. Then weave those comments into some of your answers.

For instance: If you’re interviewing for a recruiter position with a service company that has a great reputation, state how impressed you are with all the reviews from happy customers.

Just be careful: Interviewers don’t want people to tell them how to run their business. They also don’t want folks who just want any job. So do your research and display genuine enthusiasm for their brand.

3. Market Yourself

It’s a cliché that you have to “sell yourself” during an interview. However, you must highlight the skills and attributes that make you a great fit for the position.

Pro tip: If you’re a shy or naturally modest person, reference positive comments a former boss or professor made about you.

Have people recognized you for your dependability, creativity, or problem-solving skills? Any of those attributes are relevant to an entry-level professional position so mention them.

4. Good Posture Helps You Sound Better

It turns out Mom was right: If you stand up straight during your interview, you’ll sound better. Why?

Because you’ll avoid the sound of shallow breathing coming through on the other end. Good posture helps you breathe deeply, meaning you sound better.

5. Keep Smiling

Remember how we started by throwing out all the rules of making a good impression?Turns out that’s not completely necessary. You can bring that winning smile even to the phone interview. Come again? Yep.

Successful salespeople smile when they’re on the phone because smiling makes your voice sound more upbeat. It’s true: Your tone of voice impacts how the interviewer perceives you. If you sound upbeat, you project confidence to the other person. Also, be sure to speak clearly and at a steady pace. When people are nervous, they often talk too quickly and fail to communicate effectively.

6. Practice Improves Performance

You’ve got a phone interview lined up for a job that sounds perfect for you. The interviewer says, “Tell me about yourself.” You proceed to ramble on about your complete biography since birth – Don’t!

Just as practice helps you become better at playing a musical instrument, practice helps you perfect a presentation. Think about common interview question such as “Why do you want to work here?” and craft answers of no more than 90 seconds for each one. This type of phone interview preparation reduces the likelihood that you’ll freeze or give rambling answers.

7. Prepare for the Difficult Questions

Interviewers often ask, “What’s your weakness?”Sometimes they ask about a skill you just don’t have. These situations are nerve-wracking, but also predictable.

With regards to a weakness, talk about a situation where you improved on a weak area. Be prepared to talk about a situation where you quickly acquired a skill when the person inevitably asks about something you’ve never done.

8. Show You’re A STAR

STAR refers to: situation, task, action, and result. During your phone interview preparation, rehearse a statement that describes a challenge, defines the goal, emphasizes the actions you took, and ends with a positive result.

It’s great to introduce a STAR story if an interviewer asks you to describe a challenge you overcame or a project you led.

Just remember:

The interviewer wants to know about your actions. So even if it was a team project, use phrases such as:

  • I drove…
  • I contributed…
  • I delivered…

9. Ask Questions Too

Good phone interview preparation involves having a few questions to ask at the end of the interview.

Here’s another pro tip: Don’t wing it!

Write down a few questions ahead of time.

For instance, ask the interviewer how the company defines success in the position.

After the Interview

If the interviewer doesn’t set up a face-to-face interview at the end of your conversation, ask about next steps.

Specifically, ask if you can call him if you have not heard anything by a certain date.

How the interviewer answers questions about the next step in the process will tell you how serious he is about your candidacy.

Final Thoughts

Many of the above phone interview tips probably sound like common sense.

Here’s the point:

Common sense goes out the window when you’re nervous. That’s why preparation is so important.

Also, sometimes a job sounds great in the posting but completely lousy when you discuss it with a person from the company. Not all companies are professional.

Take these steps on how to prepare for a phone interview to increase your odds of success at getting the right job for you.

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