How to Ace a Phone Interview

Best Tips for Acing a Phone Interview

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While you're actively job searching, it's important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moment's notice.

In many cases, your interview will be scheduled in advance by email or phone. In others, you may receive a surprise call. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk, so always answer the phone professionally, especially if the number is an unfamiliar one.

(You should also make sure that your outgoing voicemail message is professional.)

Why do companies use phone interviews?  Employers use telephone interviews as a way of identifying and recruiting candidates for employment. Phone interviews are often used to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. They are also used as a way to minimize the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates.

Before you get on the telephone to interview for a job, review these phone interview tips and techniques so you can ace the interview and make it to the next round.

How to Ace a Phone Interview

Prepare for a phone interview just as you would for a regular in-person interview. Compile a list of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a list of answers to typical phone interview questions. In addition, have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer.

If you have advance notice of the interview, make sure to review the job description and do a bit of research on the company. In addition, you should feel comfortable and ready to discuss your background and skills during a phone conversation.

Practice Interviewing

Talking on the phone isn't as easy as it seems.

As with an in-person interview, practice can be helpful. Not only will this help you rehearse answers to common phone interview questions, but it will also help you realize if you have a lot of verbal ticks, fail to enunciate, or speak either too speedily or too slowly.

For practice, have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview and record it so you can see how you sound over the phone. Once you have a recording, you'll be able to hear your "ums" and "uhs" and "okays" and then practice reducing them from your conversational speech. Listening to the recording will also help you pinpoint answers that you can improve.

Before the Interview

Before the call, confirm all the details including the date, time and who you will be talking to. Be sure you know whether the interviewer is calling you or if you need to make the call.

Use a quiet, comfortable, and private space with no distractions so you can focus on the interview.

Phone Interview Etiquette

Review these guidelines for appropriate phone interview etiquette, so you make the best impression on your interviewer.

Answer the phone yourself, let family members and/or roommates know you are expecting a call. When you answer the phone, answer with your name i.e. Jane Doe (in a perky tone of voice) so the interviewer knows they have reached the right person.

Use the interviewer's title during the conversation (Mr. or Ms. and their last name.). Only use a first name if they ask you to. Otherwise, use the formal title.

Listen carefully to the interviewer and don't start speaking until the interviewer finishes the question. If you have something you want to say, jot it down on your note pad and mention it when it's your turn to talk.

Don't worry if you need a few seconds to think of a response, but don't leave too much dead air. If you need the interviewer to repeat the question, ask.

Phone Interview Tips

Follow these tips for a successful phone interview:

  • Keep your resume in clear view, on the top of your desk, or tape it to the wall near the phone, so it's at your fingertips when you need to answer questions.
  • Have a short list of your accomplishments available to review.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for note taking.
  • Turn call-waiting off so your call isn't interrupted.
  • If the time isn't convenient, ask if you could talk at another time and suggest some alternatives.
  • Clear the room — evict the kids and the pets. Turn off the stereo and the TV. Close the door.
  • If you have a landline, use that instead of your cell phone. That way, you'll eliminate the possibility of poor reception or dropped calls.

Do's and Don'ts During the Phone Interview

  • Don't smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
  • Do keep a glass of water handy, in case you need to wet your mouth.
  • Do smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice. It can also be helpful to stand during the interview, since this typically gives your voice more energy and enthusiasm.
  • Do speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
  • Do use the person's title (Mr. or Ms. and their last name.) Only use a first name if they ask you to.
  • Don't interrupt the interviewer.
  • Do take your time — it's perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.
  • Do take notes when possible on what questions came up.
  • Do give short answers.
  • Do remember your goal is to set up a face-to-face interview. At the end of your conversation, after you thank the interviewer, ask if it would be possible to meet in person.

Review more phone interview do's and don'ts to prepare.

After the Interview

As the interview winds down, make sure to say thank you to the interviewer. 

Once the interview is over, carefully review any notes you were able to take during the conversation. Jot down what types of questions you were asked, how you responded, and any follow-up questions you may have if you have an opportunity for an in-person interview.

Follow up soon after the call with a thank you note that reiterates your interest in the job.

More Interview Tips

Phone Interview Etiquette
Phone interview etiquette is just as important as in-person job interview etiquette when it comes to getting hired. That's because, regardless of how you interview, a successful interview will get you to the next stage of the hiring process.

Phone Interview Questions and Answers
It's important take time to review the typical phone interview questions you'll be asked and to prepare answers. In addition, plan on being prepared for a phone conversation about your background and skills.

Phone Interview Questions to Ask
When you are invited for a phone interview, in addition to reviewing the typical phone interview questions you'll be asked, it's important to have a list of questions ready to ask the interviewer.

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