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Top 9 Tips for Crushing Your Next Phone Interview

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Phone Interview Tips

You’ve made it past the initial application, and the in-person interview is on the horizon. This in-between place is the domain of the phone interview. Your resume and cover letter were deemed worthy of a call, but is your personality worth the up close and personal?

A phone interview is, in some ways, a precautionary measure. It is time consuming, and in some cases expensive, to bring someone in for a face-to-face interview. It may seem like a mere formality, but a phone interview can be a make-or-break experience.

You have many advantages during this type of interview: You can dress comfortably, be more relaxed in a familiar environment, have your papers and information right in front of you without having to shuffle around, and can discreetly take notes.

But, on the other hand, treating the phone interview as a light-hearted step towards getting the job is a mistake. It’s here that the hiring manager will ask specific questions about job history or projects from your past, to ensure you are being honest in your resume and are truly qualified for the position.

Job seekers should prepare for a phone interview as seriously as they do for an in-person one. A seemingly cursory phone interview is actually the most important step. If you don’t ace this step, the next steps never happen. How does one ace it?

Inside Big Interview, our complete training system for job interviews, we give you video lessons, sample answers, and an interactive practice tool to help prep you for the phone interview. Watch this brief video to learn a little more about Big Interview, and click here to take a quick look at the program.

1. Print Out Your Resume
You should have a physical copy of your resume,  cover letter, and any emails from the interviewer. Since this isn’t a regular interview, in which you’d use certain non-verbal tactics, you can be free to look at your resume throughout the call, instead of studying it beforehand to recall key points.

2. Use a Landline
This may not be attainable for every candidate, but if possible, use a landline phone instead of a mobile phone. Drop-outs and bad connections, while understandable, ruin the cadence of the interview, and requests to repeat questions are frowned upon. If you can’t get yourself to a landline, be sure you’re in an area with good service. And turn off call waiting.

3. Have Questions Prepared
As with any interview, you should have done your research on the company, and should have a list of questions ready. As with the resume, you have the advantage of writing these questions down and having them in front of you during the call.

4. Clear Out Your Environment
This phone interview should be conducted in a quiet place in your home. Send the pets, kids, and other distractions out of the room. This space should be as controlled as possible, and you should have no fear of any distractions or unanticipated interruptions.

5. Make Time
Set aside plenty of time for your conversation — even if you expect the phone interview to be brief. Most phone interviews last 15-20 minutes, but if you end up hitting it off with the interviewer, the last thing you want to do is have to cut them off.

6. Smile
This one might seem silly, but enthusiasm in your voice shines through on a call like this, and the interviewer will notice. Because you can’t rely upon the facial expressions and body language that speak for you in a face-to-face interview, you have to get your personality and eagerness across with just your words and your vocal quality. A small gesture like smiling while you speak will help to communicate enthusiasm.

7. Be Honest
If you’re interrupted, despite your best efforts to prevent distractions, communicate this to the interviewer and do whatever you can to return your full attention to the call as quickly as possible. Being honest, instead of hiding a blunder or faking attention, could earn you style points.

8. Speak Up
The phone interview is usually about screening candidates and validating resumes. The questions may be easier to answer than those in an in-person interview. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be engaged in the process. You have to impress the interviewer on the phone before you get your shot at meeting a decision maker in the flesh. That’s why it’s important to ask questions of your own once the interviewer has gone through his. This will help you demonstrate the interest and enthusiasm that the interviewer is looking for.

9. Say Thanks
Of course, a thank you note is imperative, but the difference here is the time frame. You won’t need to commute after this interview, and your thank you should come within minutes or a couple of hours, not a full day, after the interview.

Your mission is to score the in-person interview, and a successful phone call can establish a firm foundation for what could become a job offer.

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Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

9 Comment to Top 9 Tips for Crushing Your Next Phone Interview

  • Kim Rawks!

    I’ve gotten caught a few times – like a deer in headlights – when I’ve been asked about something on my resume. Each time I didn’t have it in front of me and had to ad-lib. Now I have it pinned to the wall next to my desk in my home office!

  • Jennifer D.

    #7 reminds me of phone interviewing for my first job out of college. I was interrupted by my dog who suddenly started tugging on my jeans leg. When I explained to the interviewer, turned out we had the same dog breed. I think this actually helped me land the position.

  • galina petersenbeard

    I prepared myself the whole week for the interview, and I wasn’t asked any of the questions that I prepared myself for. I did the best I could without sound nervous. The only part that I was on point was asking her questions. The phone interivew was only 12 minutes long versus 20.

  • galina petersenbeard

    I prepared myself the whole week for the interview, and I wasn’t asked any of the questions that I prepared myself for. I did the best I could without sound nervous. The only part that I was on point was asking her questions. The phone interivew was only 12 minutes long versus 20.

  • galina petersenbeard

    I prepared myself the whole week for the interview, and I wasn’t asked any of the questions that I prepared myself for. I did the best I could without sound nervous. The only part that I was on point was asking her questions. The phone interivew was only 12 minutes long versus 20.

  • galina petersenbeard

    I prepared myself the whole week for the interview, and I wasn’t asked any of the questions that I prepared myself for. I did the best I could without sound nervous. The only part that I was on point was asking her questions. The phone interivew was only 12 minutes long versus 20.

  • galina petersenbeard

    I prepared myself the whole week for the interview, and I wasn’t asked any of the questions that I prepared myself for. I did the best I could without sound nervous. The only part that I was on point was asking her questions. The phone interivew was only 12 minutes long versus 20.

  • galina petersenbeard

    I prepared myself the whole week for the interview, and I wasn’t asked any of the questions that I prepared myself for. I did the best I could without sound nervous. The only part that I was on point was asking her questions. The phone interivew was only 12 minutes long versus 20.

  • Tommy Cunningham

    Thank you so much for this…

    Been going through this all week and preparing myself for this tele interview, little different from norm, My interview is with the company I already work for but its in a different location in the country and is for a higher position. First time ever doing a telephone interview. Finger crossed!