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Top Six Phone Interview Tips

Man surprised about what he hears in a phone interview

We’ve offered a lot of job interview advice on this blog, particularly when it comes to the in-person interview. From how to control your body language to what to wear, we’ve covered it. But what about that initial phone interview? Surely, there’s less to worry about? After all, a good answer’s a good answer whether you’re in a suit or your pajamas, right? Well, although clothing and body language can’t be seen during a phone interview, there are still a lot of dynamics at play, some of which may even be accentuated precisely because you can’t be seen. Not to worry, though. Here are our top six phone interview tips to get you past the screening and into a meeting:

  1. Know your stuff

    Without your sharp pants suit, power tie, or confident posture to back you up, your interviewer will be even more focused on what you say. In fact, make no mistake that the phone interviewis a way to weed out candidates who simply don’t meet the minimum requirements. Some answers you give may be hard stops, such as the minimum salary you’re looking for, but other, more probing questions, such as those that ask you to summarize your experience, explain your job transitions, and provide your understanding  about the role and the organization, can mean the difference between appearing trustworthy or deceptive and excited or disinterested.

  2. Pretend they’re in front of you

    Some experts even advise going so far as to dress up in a suit for your phone interview as well as sit up straight and smile (after all, a smile can be “heard” on the phone). The idea is that the more you act like you’re in an in-person interview, the more you’ll feel that you’re in an in-person interview, thereby subconsciously giving the phone interview the same – and appropriate – level of importance the in-person interview should get.

  3. Choose the right space

    Make sure you do the interview in a quiet spot away from distractions, and, since chances are you’re taking the call on your cell phone, make sure that spot gives you a full signal. In fact, if you have access to a landline, it’s best to use that than risk having your call dropped.

  4. Have your resume at hand

    Although you should know your own resume inside and out, it’s best to have it in front of you during your phone interview. That way, you can see exactly what the interviewer is referencing at any given time. It’s important to note, however, that the resume should be a hard copy. Having it open on your computer leaves you open to being distracted by instant messages and the allure of other social media. Plus, even if you’re just scrolling down to see something on your resume, the grind of a scroll wheel and one tap of the mouse could make the interviewer wonder if you’re too busy checking Facebook than answer their questions.

  5. Listen

    Communication is a two-way street. Focus as much on what the interviewer is asking for as what you’re saying. Providing meandering or tangential answers will make it seem like you’re full of hot air, so make sure you hear what they’ve asked for and give it to them. Listening careful is also good for taking notes – so long as it’s done with a pen and paper so that there’s no clacking of a keyboard (see above).

  6. Uh, don’t say “Uh”. And, um, don’t say “um” either – Or should you?

    For a very long time, we’ve been told that “uh” and “um” are signs of poor speech. However, do you know anyone who doesn’t use them? Do you even notice it half the time? Many advise being very mindful not to use these “fillers” during a phone interview – or any interview for that matter. However, it’s not something to get paranoid about. Sure, they can be overused and therefore very noticeable, but trying to regulate them unnaturally may cause more stress than it’s worth. In fact, psychologists believe that “uh”, “um”, “like”, and “you know”, actually benefit both parties in a conversation. Essentially, they signal to the listener that there will be a bit of a delay while the speaker searches for the right words – something that is far preferable to the uncanniness of dead air. Besides, the more conversational an interview becomes, the more you can be your likeable self.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ken Graham #

    Often I feel today that we are not as formal as we should be on the phone – especially when it comes to an interview conducted either on the phone or online. As a Recruiter I cannot tell you how many times I have had to endure background noise while trying to interview a potential candidate for a career opportunity. The background noise has ranged from the TV, to music, to children playing, to babies crying, to dogs barking. This kind of noise is incredibly distracting to the interviewer. As much as I understand that we have busy lives, please always treat a telephone or online interview as formally as you would an in-person interview. This is your first impression – build for me a positive impression and don’t detract from that positive impression.


    May 30, 2014

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