We all know that the purpose of a good resume is to win an in-person
job interview. In a tight job market, however, you probably won’t get
in the door without passing the next screening: the phone interview.
Phone interviews are very normal as a first round interview in most
industries, and knowing how to handle them is a vital skill for any
Here are four major steps to phone interview success:
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
The first order of business is to research the company in question.
You’ve already applied for the job, so you should know the basics. Now
it’s time to refresh your memory and dig a little deeper.
Study the company’s history, press
releases, sales figures, and target markets.
Make an easy reference sheet of key
facts and figures.
Prepare questions about the company
that demonstrate your interest and help you to determine whether
this is an opportunity you really want to pursue.
You won’t use every bit of information
you come across, but the more you can internalize, the better off
2. SET THE STAGE
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to bust a few myths.
You might be tempted to think that where you are in the world—and what
you’re wearing—are of no consequence in the phone interview process.
Don’t make that mistake. Phone interviews are a mental game–and if you
want to win, you have to set the stage.
Choose a quiet place. Bars and coffee shops are
not ideal for this purpose. They can be noisy and provide too many
distractions. Consider a home office or a private room at a
coworking space. Find a location that allows you to focus on the
interviewer and allows the interviewer to focus on
Dress the part. What we wear may have an impact
on mental sharpness. Most of us know this from personal
experience. If you wear shorts and flip-flops, you feel casual and
relaxed. If you wear business attire, you feel professional and
confident. The interviewer won’t know what you’re wearing, but you
will—and your confidence will come through over the
Have the right tools. A notepad and pen will
allow you to make notes without clattering away on a keyboard.
Hard copies of relevant materials (e.g. your resume, notes, the
job description, etc.) will provide easy access to useful talking
points. A glass of water will help you to avoid coughing and
clearing your throat during the conversation. A LinkedIn
photograph of your interviewer will demystify the voice on the
other end of the line (but don’t comment on this).
Consider a landline. The last thing you want is
for the call to drop due to cell service failure. This virtually
never happens with landlines. If you can’t use a landline, make
sure you choose a location with good cell coverage, and
double-check to make sure that your phone service is active and in
3. NAVIGATE THE CONVERSATION
It’s time to answer the phone and deliver your best performance.
There are hundreds of “hacks” to consider, and it’s easy to get lost.
Stick to the basics and you’ll find yourself at the top of your game.
Get centered. Don’t start your job interview in a
hectic moment; the interviewer will feel it, and so will you. Give
yourself 10-15 minutes to concentrate and prepare. Re-read the job
description. Review the notes you made about the company. Revisit
the connections between what you have and what the company needs.
Take a few deep breaths. If you haven’t warmed up your voice that
day, do some vocal exercises. You don’t want to sound drowsy,
scratchy, or tired when the time comes to speak.
Answer the phone yourself. When the call comes
through, don’t allow your roommate, your significant other, or
your Uncle Chip to answer the phone. This sends an unprofessional
message, and you haven’t even opened your mouth yet.
Keep still. If you pace the room or exhibit other
types of nervous energy, the interviewer will probably pick up on
it. Don’t chew gum or fiddle around with objects on the table. Try
to remain calm, focused, and relatively still throughout
Smile. We all know from experience that a smile
can be heard over the phone. As much as possible, smile during the
interview–just as you would in person. This will give your words
much more energy and appeal.
Let the interviewer take the lead. Always listen
first, then speak. Take notes, and be careful not to
Be thoughtful and concise in your answers. Keep
small talk to a minimum, and don’t volunteer information about
your personal life. Don’t be afraid to allow a brief pause before
Be fluid and conversational. A rigid and robotic
speaking style is no way to earn points with a hiring manager.
Make sure your pronunciation is clear, and give your voice plenty
of tonality. It might help to practice with a friend or family
member and incorporate their feedback.
Have your questions ready. There will come a time
during the interview when you will be asked if you have questions.
Fortunately, you’ve already prepared them during the research
phase. Use the ones that feel most relevant to the moment and that
you genuinely want answered. Don’t mention salary or benefits
during the phone call unless the interviewer mentions
End on a positive note. Always thank your
interviewer for the chance to speak. If you have strong interest,
express confidence in your ability to meet the need. Let them know
that you would be thrilled to meet in person, and allow them to
explain the next step in the process.
4. FOLLOW UP
You might think it was the best interview you’ve ever done, or you
might wish you had performed a lot better. Either way, your work isn’t
Send a thank you email. You shouldn’t do this
right after you hang up the phone. Wait to send it later that day.
Simply thank the interviewer for the conversation, reiterate your
interest in the open position (and in the company at large), and
express your wish to schedule an interview in person.
Don’t expect a quick reply. Remember, you were
probably one of several people interviewed over the phone today.
Hiring managers may not follow up with you immediately, but don’t
lose hope. Simply move on with your day, and continue with your
Follow up once more. A respectful hiring manager
will update you before too much time has passed, but if nothing
happens after week, feel free to send another follow-up
A DIRECT LINE TO SUCCESS
Your next phone interview could determine whether or not you sit
down for a face-to-face interview. By learning these basic rules and
putting them into practice, you’ll give yourself the best possible
chance to edge your way forward in a competitive job market.
Strayer University’s degree programs teach you the skills needed
to succeed in today’s workplace. Learn more about Strayer
University’s online degree programs.