5 Tips to Help Nail Your Next Phone Interview

phone-interviewEmployers often use phone screens as a low cost way to put the right candidates in front of hiring managers. The goal: eliminate candidates who aren’t able to articulate their value proposition, and to determine which candidates are worthy of moving on to the next round of interviews.

In some ways, these phone screens even harder than an in-person meeting. There seems to be more at stake, and nerves tend to take over… sometimes even more than might happen in during an in-office interview. Plus, interpersonal rapport and non-verbal communication don’t play as big of a role in how you are perceived by the interviewer.

Here are 5 tips to help you the nail that all-important call… and help you earn the invitation to the office for a face-to-face interview:

1. Treat This Call As Nothing Less than a Real Interview

Even though it might only be a 20 or 30-minute call, don’t treat it as anything less than a meeting with the CEO. Put all of your energy, resources, and preparation into getting ready for the phone screen.

  • Pull out your interview prep materials, do the company research, and take this invitation seriously – as seriously as you would a daylong face-to-face interview.
  • Be sure to prepare a couple of good, provocative questions or observations you’d like to cite during the interview, or in wrap-up. Look beyond page 1 of the organization’s web site for info-gathering on this.
  • Just in case you don’t connect, put a professional and welcoming voicemail greeting on your phone just in case you misconnect. (Hi, this is Marcy Darcey at 000-555-5555. I’m not able to take your call right now, but please leave a message and I’ll call you back shortly.)

2. Practice Talking on the Phone

You may not be well versed in talking about yourself, and projecting your personality, over the phone. You also probably aren’t used to someone listening to you, on the phone, for that long.

  • Practice talking through your responses, your behavioral stories, and your strengths and weaknesses questions before you get on the phone.
  • Record your voice and play it back. Is it flat and monotonous? If so, practice modulating your pitch, volume and pausing so that you make it inviting to listen. Have someone listen and give you feedback as well.
  • Practice smiling while you practice talking on the phone. Read this paragraph out loud. Then read it while smiling. Hear the difference?

3. Take Advantage of Any Lead Time Available

Often phone screens are booked in short order. My client got a request on Monday afternoon to have a phone screen the next day at 2:30. That’s not a lot of time to prepare, so you must take advantage of the time you do have.

  • Use my “how to get interview ready in three hours” method to focus in and get prepared.
  • If you have target employers (and you should), keep a research file on them so you’re not starting from scratch when you get the call.
  • Check out your interviewer on LinkedIn and see how long they have been with the company, where they report, and what their job history is.

4. Prep Your Interview Workspace

The nice thing about a phone screen is that it’s like an open book test. You can have your notes, outline any behavioral questions (tell me about a time when…), key accomplishments you want to share, strengths, and more right in front of you during the conversation.

Note: It is essential to find a quiet place to conduct the interview. This is a professional engagement that requires excellent communication and the ability to hear – and be heard – without disruption.

  • Find a quiet spot away from loud noises, crying babies, barking dogs, music, etc.
  • Clear the workspace and have your resume in front of you.
  • Print out the application you submitted and the notes from your interview preparation. Have a bottle of water on standby.
  • If you’re using a mobile device, make sure you have a strong signal and a good quality voice line from your workspace.

5. Crush the Call

Now that you’ve prepared and rehearsed, it’s time for the interview!

  • Practice your “power pose” before the call. (See Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk for more great tips on this issue.)
  • Sit up straight feet on the floor, breathe slowly from your diaphragm to control your nerves.
  • No chewing tobacco, smoking, gum, or eating while you’re on the call. Water is OK, just no gulping.
  • Modulate your speech, volume, inflection, and use pauses to create a cadence with your voice. Even though it’s on the phone, you still have the opportunity to build a relationship with this person.
  • Be complete, concise, and focused in your responses.Keep your answers to between 1.5 and 2 minutes, max.
  • Smile!
  • Take notes so you can recall the conversation.
  • Close with your questions when it’s appropriate. ONLY AFTER talking about organization related questions, you can ask about the process and next steps for the interview.
  • Don’t forget a gracious and professional thank you at the end.

The phone interview might be a bit intimidating. But as with most things, the right preparation will go a long way to getting you on the way to finding a great job, faster!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!


Degrees of Transition


Lea McLeodAbout the Author: Lea McLeod is author of the Resume Coloring Book. Check it out if you are struggling with writing your resume in today’s job market. She’s also founder of the Job Success Lab so that you can GO PRO in any job! Follow her on Twitter and her blog: DegreesofTransition.com.



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