5 Tips to Phone Interview Success

a cartoon man and woman  talking on the phone
Published: Monday, January 25, 2016 by Jill Klees

Yippee! You have a phone interview scheduled. This is a screening call to determine if the employer would like to invite you in-house for a face-to-face. This is not the time to wing it and just go with the flow. A phone screen interview is a real interview and it is a big deal. This is your opportunity to shine and make a positive first impression.

Here are my top 5 tips to phone interview success.

1. Prepare answers to common interview questions.

Just like a face-to-face interview, you’ll want to be prepared and feel comfortable and confident answering questions like:

• Tell me little about yourself.
• Why are you interested in this position?
• Why are you applying to our organization?
• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
• What were your most significant accomplishments in your last position?
• What can you contribute to our organization?
• Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?

TIP: I also like to prepare questions to ask during the phone interview. I plan them out ahead of time and write them down. This is a great way to demonstrate my interest and enthusiasm in the position I am seeking.

2. First impressions count!

Because the caller can’t see you, the tone of your voice and your words must absolutely convey enthusiasm, interest, energy, and a positive attitude. For some people this comes naturally. For others, it will take a bit more work. Practice answering common interview questions out loud.  Try recording yourself prior to your phone interview and hear how you sound.

TIP: I like to smile during my phone interviews and even laugh when appropriate. Callers can feel my energy and get a sense of my personality. A little caffeine may help too!

3. Control your environment.

You’ll want to be sure you are in a quiet and distraction free location. Be sure there are no outside background noises such as dogs barking or people talking. You need to stay 100% focused on the call so be sure you plan ahead and identify a space that is conducive to making a positive impression.

TIP: I take my phone interviews in my parked car. It is a quiet space and I find it easy for me to focus.

4. Keep notes in front of you.

Since the caller can’t see you, it is perfectly acceptable to have a copy of the job description, your resume and cover letter, other notes in front of you for reference, and a pen and paper. Just be sure you still prepare and know what you want to say without reading from your notes. Word of caution, do not shuffle papers around during the interview or get distracted looking for information.

TIP: I find it super helpful to jot notes down during the phone interview. These can be an invaluable resource when I get invited for an in-house interview.

5. Ask about next steps.

Once you sense the call is wrapping up, ask the caller about the next step in the interview process and when candidates may expect to hear back. This is an important and easy way to show your interest in the position. Be sure to thank the caller for their time. If need be, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for the correct spelling of the caller’s name and their email address.

TIP: I like to send a quick email thank you note to the caller within 24 hours of my phone interview. Again thanking them for taking the time to talk with me, reiterating my interest in the position, and stating that I look forward to hearing back.

For more interviewing tips, check out the iSchool Career Development Interviewing pages. Happy interviewing!

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