Job Seeker’s Guide to Mastering the Phone Interview

March 3, 2015

The phone interview. Loved by hiring managers, often despised by job seekers, this cost effective and introductory phase of the interview process comes across as the easiest way to narrow down a list of candidates.

This step, the first in the path to your next job, needs to go smoothly.


So what can you do to ensure that your hiring manager thinks you’re the perfect candidate for a call back and in-person interview? We’d like to share with you a few tips to master phone interviews.

Tip 1: Create an Environment Suited for Phone Interviews

When you get the email asking what time you’re available for a phone interview, the first thing you need to consider is the environment in which you will be fielding the call. You need a quiet, well-lit room free of distractions with your resume, cover letter, and notes in front of you.

If you’re at home, use a landline if possible, turning off any background noise that could arise. If work at an office, know where you intend to field the call.

Tip 2: Keep Relevant Information

One of the best pieces of advice is to keep a cheat sheet. Your cheat sheet is your study guide for the interview, condensed to cover relevant information and talking points while speaking with the hiring manager. During your research phase, start taking notes including but not limited to the following:

  • Job Description with Notes on How You Match
  • Job History
  • Skills Developed
  • Your Knowledge of the Company
  • Questions You May Have. Here’s a list of good questions to ask.
  • Resume
  • Cover Letter
  • Critical Talking Points
  • Answers to Downplay Red Flag Questions

Read each of these multiple times. One of the most off-putting things that a recruiter or hiring manager can face is the uninformed, unprepared, or uncaring candidate.

Tip 3: Stretch, Dress Up, Smile, and Stand if Possible

Psychology meets physiology. Did you know that when you strike power poses before an interview—in person or on the phone—you sound more confident? This minor boost in vocal confidence can make a difference in a call back going further or the dreaded ‘thanks but no thanks’ email.

Secondly, have you heard the phrase “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have”? This phrase, although not spot on, is beneficial for you. You can project more confidence, even over the phone, if you dress more confidently. Don’t have the “I just got out of bed voice.”

If you’ve spent even a brief term in high school theatre or music, you have probably been told to smile when you sing. It works. You sound happier, and studies show it actually makes you happier.

Finally, a simple physiology lesson. You can’t project while laying down or slouching. Make the most of your vocal qualities, stand if possible. If you can’t stand, sit up straight.

Tip 4: Send a Thank You Email or Letter

Hiring managers and recruiters have many people to call each day. Make yourself memorable by at a minimum sending a thank you email. See our article on the power of thank you and how to send a thank you letter for more information.

Quick Fixes

Of course, there are other short fixes to prepare for phone interviews. If you have a bit of time on your hands, there’s a book, The Essential Phone Interview Handbook, that will offer information on how to truly prepare for phone interviews. However, if you’re looking for a few short tips in addition to the other three, read on.

  • Look at a photograph (or LinkedIn Profile Pic) of your interviewer.
  • Talk less and focus on the points
  • Tea with lemon and honey before the interview
  • Listen to talk radio
  • Listen to a pump-up song before the interview
  • Schedule an interview at your best time
  • Keep a glass of water available during the interview
  • Prepare for these common phone interview questions
  • Don’t smoke, eat, or chew gum
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer

Understand that the phone interview is the first step in a list of many that will land you your next position.

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