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.
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.
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.
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.
12 Phone Interview Do's and Don'ts That Really DO Matter
Have an upcoming phone interview? Congratulations! Phone interviews can be both a blessing and curse: as part of a larger interview process, phone interviews generally mean you will have multiple opportunities to impress an interviewer. But since there's probably many other individuals getting screened over the phone, even the smallest of mistakes can get your name scratched off the candidate list.
Just because you can chat for hours with your friends or families on the phone, make successful sales calls, or lead awesome phone meetings does not mean you'll automatically ace an interview.
Brush up your phone interview etiquette with these 11 do's and don'ts that you might not know.
Set Yourself Up for Success
What does that mean? Well, for one, you probably shouldn't take the call in your pajamas in bed. A few days before the call, prepare for the interview in the same way you would ready yourself for an in-person meeting. Review the questions and answers you'll likely be asked.
When the day comes, get dressed in a way that will help you feel confident. Then, set up a quiet space where you can sit at a table and have your cover letter and resume in view.
Make sure you have a pen and paper, and most importantly, keep background noise to a minimum. You don't want your dogs, kids, spouse or parents yapping for your attention while you're on the phone. Arrange for privacy (or a babysitter) if need be.
It's not a good idea to take the call on speaker phone. Though it might appear to help you take notes or be able to look at your resume, taking a call on speaker phone can make it difficult for your interviewer to hear you. Don't risk the chance of being misunderstood, or losing a key answer to static.
During your interview, don't be making (or drinking) coffee, have the TV on in the background, eat lunch, have your Facebook feed open, et cetera. In fact, you shouldn't be browsing the Internet at all. While it can be helpful to have a browser open in case you need to look up a quick fact, ideally you should limit it to one window only and have your resume and cover letter printed out.
Hopefully, you've already done your research before the interview, so there should be no need to scramble for answers while you're on the phone.
Don't Talk Too Much
In a face-to-face interview, it's easy to read your interviewer's body language and pick up the cue for when you should stop talking. On a phone call, those signs aren't so clear, so it's easy to ramble on.
Whether or not your rambling is actually adding value to the conversation is irrelevant; at a certain point, your interviewer will stop paying attention, will perceive you as someone who lacks the bibility to listen well, and might get annoyed as you chop away time for other, more important questions and answers. Think of your answers like a great cocktail: you don't want it watered down. Keep it short and strong.
Don't Take the Call in a Public Place
Make time for your interview. Only agree to take the call during a time and date in which you can sit down and focus in a quiet space. Taking the call in a coffee shop or while on-the-go is not a good move.
If it's going to be difficult to take the call, consider rescheduling for a time that's better. Here's what to do when you need to reschedule a job interview.
Do Make Sure Your Connection is Working Properly
Don't risk interrupting the rapport of your interview with a faulty connection. If you have a landline in your home, generally it should provide a clearer connection than a cell phone. If you are using a cell phone, make sure the service in your location is consistent. And finally, if you're making the call through the Internet, do a test run with someone before your call.
Hint: Silence the devices that you aren't using to take the call. For example, if you're on the landline, put your cell phone on mute. If you're using your cell phone, turn off your computer volume.
Don't Wait to Call In
Do call in two minutes before the scheduled interview time, and don't wait till last minute to get set up. If you're calling your interviewer, and not the other way around, start dialing a minute or so before your scheduled appointment so your call comes in right on time.
However, give yourself ample time for set up. Ideally, about 30 minutes before your call, you should be sure you have the right contact information, check your cover letter and resume is handy, and review both your application materials and the company's website to ensure the information is fresh in your mind.
Do Speak Up if You Can't Hear
Don't be afraid to tell your interviewer you can't hear him or her. Speaking up is better than spending the whole interview missing questions. Don't take the fall out from a bad connection. If you can't hear your interviewer well, let them know politely. All you need to say is, "I am sorry, I missed that. I think the connection is poor."
Do Take Notes
While you shouldn't be scribbling away during your interview, if at any time you discuss takeaways (send a portfolio, connect on LinkedIn) points that you think you should have on hand during a later point, or questions that come up, be sure you write them down so they don't end up slipping your mind.
Do Get the Interviewer's Email Address
Do ask for an email address if you don't already have it, and follow up immediately. Although you will likely have your interviewer's contact information, make sure it is a personal address and not an "info@" or "HR@" address. Sending a personal thank you note will ensure it is seen by the right person.
Do Realize That There Will Likely Be Next Steps
Do realize that there will likely be next steps. In most cases, a phone interview is only a first step. Sometimes, candidates will even be screened two or three times on the phone before being asked to come into the office.
On one hand, this is good news in that you have multiple opportunities to prove your candidacy. On the other hand - it also means that there will likely be many others vying for the job, so it's important to do your very best each time you interview in order to make it to the next round.
Don't think that just because you've been invited for a phone interview that you have the job in the bag. In many cases it is only a gateway to other interviews.