10 Tips for a Great Phone Interview


Congratulations – you’ve submitted your resume and the employer has now asked to speak with you over the phone for a screening interview. There are two main purposes for an interview:  to screen candidates and to make a selection for the job.  A screening interview is to ensure quickly and efficiently that only suitable candidates are interviewed more extensively. 

Phone interviews are a common way for employers to filter out candidates who may look good on paper, but lack the communication and collaboration skills they’re looking for. Your personality and working style will come through over the phone to give employers a sense of who you are as an individual. From there, they may invite you to an in-person interview to learn more about you. We have lined up a few tips for you to succeed in the phone interview and move on to the next round the hiring process! 

Before your phone interview 

1. Do your research. 

The employer will ask you why this role and this company in particular are of interest to you. Research the mission statement, business goals of the company and the company’s products? Read reviews on Glass Door to learn more about the work culture of the organization and incorporate this information into your answer. Refer to the company’s LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages to learn about the organization’s latest news and projects. If you can, try to set up an informational interview with someone at the company so that you can hear an employee’s first-hand experience.  You will get a good sense of their work culture based on photos and the tone of the page. 

2. Prepare a ‘cheat sheet’. 

One of the advantages of a phone interview is that you can set yourself up with a ‘cheat sheet’ that you can put on the screen in front of you throughout the interview. Be sure to have the resume you submitted for this job in front of you. The employer will likely do the same. In preparing for the phone interview, write down a few key points you want to make about why you are a good candidate for this role. Even though it’s over the phone, treat this as a real interview. Nerves may come into play so a few written reminders will help keep you calm and collected. 

3. Find a quiet space and time 

Find time in your schedule when you won’t feel rushed between appointments and events. Be sure to take time before and after the scheduled call to prepare and collect your thoughts. Find a space that is quiet. This is crucial to the success of your phone interview. Avoid noisy public places like streets, stores, public transit, etc. Avoid any background noise as much as possible. You want the employer to be able to hear your every word and to focus on why you’re the best person for the job. Don’t make them work to hear you above traffic or other voices. Quiet space creates the right environment for a successful phone interview. 

4. Have a valid phone number with voicemail 

Most employers will schedule the phone interview with you. However, there are employers who will call you without any notice. You should be prepared for anything once you submit your application for a role. Ensure your voicemail is set up on your phone with a professional voice message and your name clearly stated. If you can’t be reached, the employer will leave a voicemail. Make sure the message they receive is a reflection of who you are as a working professional, not just the informal version of yourself you present to friends. Hearing the message, ‘this voicemail box is not yet setup’ does not convey a good sense of preparation or organization. 

During the interview 

5. Smile! 

A smile and positive attitude will come across in the tone of your voice over the phone. When you pick up the phone for your interview, smile as if you’re greeting someone for the first time. A warm ‘hello’ will help you to build rapport with the employer representative you are speaking with. Building this rapport at the beginning will help you to assert your strengths and skills later on in the conversation. 

6. Be attentive to speaking style 

Phone interviews are particularly difficult because you don’t have the opportunity to pick up on non-verbal cues. Be attentive to their communication style over the phone right from the beginning. Do they pause between sentences? Are they brief or long-winded? You’ll get a sense of this in first few minutes of the conversation. Take note of that and use it to your advantage to avoid cutting them off or long awkward pauses. Do your part and use verbal cues to note when you’ve finished answering a question. Sum up your response at the end to let the employer know you’ve finished responding. Refer back to the original question as a means to sum up your response, for example, “…and that’s why I feel I would be a really good fit at ABC company.” 

7. Always be in the moment 

Don’t let distractions take over. Tell any roommates or family members that you have a phone interview scheduled and ask for no interruptions. Your mind and attention needs to stay 100% in the interview. Close your email or any other applications/programs with notifications that may appear on the screen in front of you. Keep a clean screen of ONLY the things you need for the interview: resume, job posting, and a few notes on your suitability for the position. 

8. Make it personal 

If you can, bring up a photo of the person you’re speaking with on LinkedIn. Find their profile and learn a little about them. Are they an HR professional working for the company, a hiring manager, a technical expert from your profession?  Tailor your answers depending on the background of the person you are speaking to.  For example, and HR professional hiring for an IT role may not be interested in all of the technical details of your role, whereas an IT hiring manager may look for a little bit more.  Click through to their profile picture to give you a better sense of who you’re talking to. This is a small thing, but it can be a huge help in making it seem more personal and friendly.   

9. Ask about next steps 

At the end of the interview, ask the employer about steps going forward in the recruitment process. Will there be a follow-up interview in person? When can you expect to hear back about the hiring process? The employer will give you a general idea of their timeline and what you can anticipate in the days or weeks to come. 

After the interview 

10. Follow up with a ‘thank-you’ email 

Take a moment following the interview to send a brief email to the employer (if possible), thanking them for taking the time to speak with you. Refer to something you spoke about in the interview to remind them of your conversation. Employers could be interviewing many candidates – a reminder as to who you are and why you’re great for the role helps to keep you top of mind.  

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