5 Steps to a Phenomenal Phone Interview

Job interviews can make even the most confident among us to break out in a sweat, but phone interviews? We usually see them as a more relaxed, low-pressure version of the real deal. But while you might not be donning your interview attire and taking a seat across from the big boss, phone interviews are no less important than their in-person counterparts. Some might even argue that they’re more so.

Giving you a ring is an increasingly common way for recruiters to pare down their list of candidates during the early stages of their search. That means if you don’t make a positive impression on the phone, you’re not likely to set foot in the office. And while you’ve got body language, eye contact and facial expressions working in your favor when you meet someone in person, on the phone, all you’ve got is your voice.

So don’t neglect the phone interview. Here’s how you can prepare yourself for an impressive performance:

1. Set the stage.
You might think that because your interviewer can’t see you, you can get away with dressing in your pajamas and taking the call while reclining comfortably on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. After all, the more comfortable you are, the better you’ll perform, right? Wrong. That’s one of the biggest mistakes people make when conducting phone interviews. Not approaching your interview with a professional attitude will inevitably show through. By dressing the part and choosing a quiet, office-like setting to take your call, you will feel more like the professional that you are—and your interviewer will be much more likely to sense that.

2. Do your background research.
Don’t waste your interviewer’s time by asking him or her to answer simple questions about the company. Instead, take a few minutes to read the company’s website and catch up with its social media updates to get a handle on recent news as well as history. That knowledge can add an impressive layer of context when answering basic questions, such as why you want to work there and what you can bring to the table. For instance, if the company recently expanded to a new market or unveiled a new campaign, you could speak about your own related experience in a past position.

Also find out as much as you can about the person who will be interviewing you before you get on the phone. They’ll appreciate your thoroughness, even if you simply demonstrate that you know what they do and how long they’ve been with the company.

3. Stay on track with notes.
One big benefit of phone interviews over in-person ones: You can keep a list of talking points in front of you throughout the call to help you stay on track. Clearly the interviewer will be guiding the conversation with his or her questions, but it helps to have a few points in mind that you would really like to include. With that list in front of you, you’ll be more likely to find a way to work your topics into the conversation, no matter which direction it goes. Be sure to prepare one or two thoughtful questions to ask, too.

4. Listen closely.
Without the aid of body language, you miss out on those all-important cues that an interviewer is losing interest, or is confused or annoyed. Because of this, it’s important to be hypersensitive to what you’re hearing on the other end of the line—even if it’s just an occasional “uh-huh,” an extra-long silence or tapping from a keyboard. Avoid rambling, and if your interviewer has been quiet for a while, wrap it up and allow them to move on to the next question.

5. Be prepared with the basics.
Phone interviews are a good way for recruiters to get the basic questions out of the way, so prepare to answer those as well as you possibly can. There’s a good chance you’ll be going over topics such as your work history, career highlights and what you hope to bring to the company. Just because these questions are basic doesn’t mean they’re not significant. This is your chance to shine, so be ready with well-thought-out answers.

Do you have any tried-and-true tactics for acing a phone interview? Please share them below!

Job interview fail? Check out 8 reasons why you didn’t get the job.  


Michelle Kruse has more than 10 years of hiring and recruiting experience and a background in coaching and leadership development. At ResumeEdge, Michelle recruits and hires résumé writers, provides training and ongoing support, manages strategic partnerships and serves as a subject matter expert on the job search process.

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