Tips for a Phone Interview

Cell phone for a phone interview
Tips for a phone interview! Helping you turn a phone call into an in-person interview.

Many organizations rely on phone interviews as the first step in their interview process. Often, a phone call is the first interaction you’ll have with a company after submitting your initial application, so it’s important to make a lasting impression. We’ve compiled our top tips for a phone interview along with everything else you’ll need to know to get through this first stage in the hiring process.

A phone interview is an easy way for recruiters to gauge your interest in a position, see if you’d be a good personality fit, and talk with you about the opportunity. Sometimes, interviews are scheduled in advance, and other times, you’ll receive a phone call out of the blue. If you’re job-hunting and receive a call from a number you don’t recognize, don’t just send it to voicemail! Answer the phone professionally, (“Hello, this is Alex.”) to let the recruiter know they’ve reached the right person.

Pro Tip: When you start your job search, update your voicemail greeting to include your full name.

What’s the Point of a Phone Interview?

With the rise of internet job boards, companies can receive hundreds of applications in response to a single job post. Recruiters can’t interview every person that applies, so they’re looking for ways to narrow the list of applicants down to a reasonable number. First, resumes are screened and the obvious “no’s” are rejected. Next, a recruiter will either reach out to prospective candidates to set up a phone call or cold-call them for an impromptu interview. Based on how the calls go, a short list of candidates will be invited for an in-person interview.

Phone interviews are often shorter than traditional interviews, cost less in terms of resources, and are useful when screening out-of-town applicants.

How to Leave a Great Impression

Your goal is to make it to an in-person interview where you can show the company you’re the right person for the job. To get there, you have to ace the first round phone interview.

Although you may not know a cold-call is coming, you can still prepare for it. In fact, prepping for a phone interview is pretty similar to preparing for a traditional one. You should create a list of your strengths and top skills, practice your answers to common interview questions, be familiar with your resume, and have a list of basic questions to ask the interviewer at the end.

If you’re able to schedule your call in advance, take some time to research the organization and create a list of 5 things you found interesting about them, and 3 reasons why you’d like to work for them. Print out a copy of the job description and highlight responsibilities that you know you would succeed at. During your call, talk about how your qualifications relate directly to those aspects of the job.

Not Expecting a Call?

If you’re caught off guard by a call from a recruiter, don’t panic. Keep a folder with a copy of your current resume and a list of basic questions to ask at the end of an interview to refer to during your call. You should be comfortable discussing your responsibilities at each of your past positions, and explaining what your skills and strengths are. If you sent a cover letter with your application, pull it up during your call and reference points from it. The great thing about a phone interview is that you can refer to your “cheat sheets” without the interviewer knowing.

Pro Tip: If the call came at an inconvenient time, it’s alright to ask if you could reschedule and provide a few alternative times that work best for you.

Practice Your Responses

Just like you would do for an in-person interview, practice your responses to common questions. By rehearsing beforehand, you’ll sound confident when answering and have a well thought out response ready to go.

If you have a friend who’s willing to mock interview you, ask them to point out questions where they felt like you took a long time to answer, or where you could improve. You can also record yourself answering common interview questions and then watch yourself to see where you struggled or said “um” a lot.

You don’t need to memorize your responses, but having an idea of what to say will help you sound confident during your interview.

Before Your Scheduled Call

If you’ve set up a phone call with a recruiter, be sure to confirm the time and date of the call, as well as who will be initiating it. Mark the interview down on your calendar and set a reminder for 5-10 minutes before so you can be ready when the phone rings.

Make sure you have a quiet, comfortable place to talk that has good reception. Turn off any TVs, radios or speakers around you to ensure the recruiter is able to hear you and has your full attention.

Tips for a Great Call

  • Keep an updated copy of your resume near you for easy reference.
  • Print out the job description and highlight areas that where your qualifications match up.
  • Have a pen and notepad handy to take notes while the interviewer is talking. Write down anything they mention about the job that interests you and reference it later in your conversation.
  • Eliminate distractions by choosing a quiet space where you can give the recruiter your full attention.
  • Have 2-3 questions prepared for the end of the interview.
  • Keep a cup of water handy in case your throat gets dry from nerves.
  • Take your time while answering. You won’t be expected to have instant answers for every question – if you need some extra time to think, preface your pause with, “Hmm, that’s a great question!”
  • Keep your answers short. Save the in-depth answers for the in-person interview.
  • Smile! Your tone of voice is noticeably different when you’re smiling, and it will project a positive image to the interviewer.
  • Don’t interrupt the speaker. If you need clarification on what they’re asking, wait until they’re done talking and then ask for them to rephrase the question or explain what kind of response they’re looking for.
  • Write down the caller’s name so you can thank them at the end. Ask for their email address if you don’t already have it.

After the Call

Follow-up with the interviewer after your call by sending them a thank you email. Reiterate your interest in the position and include anything regarding your qualifications that you forgot or weren’t able to mention. Thank them for their time and express that you would appreciate the opportunity to talk further about the position, face-to-face.

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