Tips for a Successful Phone Interview

On the phone. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper/Army
On the phone. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond J. Piper/Army

More and more, employers are requesting phone interviews with job candidates before they bring them in to meet in person. This allows employers to ask pertinent questions, assess behavioral temperament, and evaluate personality and character before they commit to a face-to-face meeting.

While it might seem easier to do a phone interview – you don't have to dress up! – applicants often find the challenges of not meeting in person and getting real time feedback to be unsettling.

Follow these tips to make your next phone interview a success:

Before the Call

  1. Do your homework. Research the company, industry and each of the people who will be on the call. If you are unsure of who could be on the call, ask the interviewer in advance if they can provide the names. Still, there could be people lurking in the background of your phone call. Never assume you're just talking to one interviewer.
  2. Write your notes on index cards. You might organize them by topics such as company and industry, hiring managers, and questions you'll ask. Index cards allow you to move your notes in front of you on the call, instead of searching for information on a sheet of long paper.
  3. Have your top three to four key messages written out. What are the main points you want to make? What are your supporting points?
  4. Think about the questions you'll ask. Be sure they are not questions you could easily find the answers to online (i.e. "When was the company founded?") Instead, consider questions that show you've done your research, are interested in the position, and connect your background to the work you'd be doing if hired. For instance, you might ask, "I see that your company is expanding into the Mid West. My experience growing up in Oklahoma, and then leading troops across the Middle East, taught me that being sensitive to the local community is an asset for a leader. Would my passion and background make me a good candidate for a management role as you grow the company?"

During the Call

  1. On the call, you will not have the advantage of visual cues, including body language. Neither will they. Unless the call is via Skype or Facetime, they will be relying on how you express yourself, vocally. Be sure to annunciate your words and animate your responses.
  2. Dress and act the part. Even though they can't see you, dress for an in person interview. This will ensure you keep professional as you answer their questions.
  3. Place your index cards, with your notes, in front of you where you can move them around and see them clearly. It will be important to refer to them, but not read them. You want to sound natural and confident.
  4. Don't rush to answer. Take your time responding. This will feel awkward because they can't see that you are considering a response. Better to give a good response rather than a rushed one.
  5. Thank the speakers for their questions. Not every time, but periodically acknowledge and show appreciation for their questions. This will reassure them and buys you a few seconds to consider your response.

After the Call

  1. Immediately after the call, send an email thanking the host and anyone else you know was on the call. Reinforce your key messages and points in the email.
  2. If there are any follow up items due to them from you, be sure to get this done soon after the call.
  3. Send a handwritten thank you note to the people on the call. Even though you sent an email, a handwritten note is a nice touch. It will arrive a few days after your interview. Reinforce your key points, your desire for the position, and how you can add value to the company.

Phone interviews are tricky, but if you follow these tips, you will be more focused and impactful in your preparation, during the interview, and with your follow up. This will set you apart from all the other "voices" the employer talks to!

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