A phone interview can be incredibly stressful. Without the face-to-face communication you have in a traditional interview, it can be difficult to let your personality shine when you’re only talking over the phone.
But because phone interviews help companies screen candidates before bringing them in for a traditional interview, you need to know how to carry yourself and make a strong first impression over the phone. In many ways, they are similar to a traditional interview, but there are a few key phone interview tips you’ll want to know to make yourself stand out, in a good way.
If you have a phone interview coming up, here are some tips you should keep in mind.
1. Get Your Information in Front of You
One of the biggest benefits of doing a phone interview over a traditional in-person interview is your interviewer won’t know if you’re checking notes the entire time. While you still want to take the appropriate amount of time to research the company, position and your own qualifications, you can still have the necessary documents in front of you during the phone call.
To ensure you’re prepared, pull up the company website, your resume, the job posting and your application to reference during the call. To better prepare yourself, print these documents out. This will ensure you still have access to the information if your internet or power goes out during the call. It’s always good to have a backup plan.
2. Avoid Using a Cellphone
While this may be tough for some people, use a landline to conduct your phone interview if you have access to one. Although many people only use their cellphones, a bad cellphone signal can completely ruin the entire interview.
If you have a landline at home, use it. If you don’t, see if you can access one from a friend or family member to make the call. Else, your cellphone will have to do. If you do need to use a cellphone to complete the interview (or a cordless phone), make sure to charge it fully. Nothing will make you look more irresponsible than a phone dying in the middle of your call.
3. Find a Quiet Space
During a traditional interview, you’re not in charge of the space around you. This means if the office phone rings or someone barges into the room, you’re not responsible. But when you’re on a phone interview, you control the environment around you — which means you need to find an area to have the call that is free from noise or distractions.
Try to find a space with as few distractions as possible. It is best to do a phone interview while at home. Find an area away from pets, kids and other household noises, such as the washing machine or dishwasher, that your interviewer may be able to hear on the other side of the line. If you’re unable to get home for the interview, try to complete it in a private office or even in your vehicle.
4. Keep a Smile on Your Face
When you’re talking one-on-one with an interviewer, you probably find you try harder to smile and appear friendly. But when you’re talking over the phone and the interviewer can’t see your face, you probably don’t think twice about grinning.
Yet with the phone between you and your interviewer, it is even more challenging to portray emotion or excitement. In a traditional interview, they can see your facial expressions. Over the phone, it is your job to ensure they understand the feeling, passion and energy behind your answers. Smiling, even if no one else sees, sets a vocal tone for that positivity.
5. Use a Pen and Paper to Take Notes
It’s always important to take notes during a phone interview, but attempting to do so on a computer can be noisy and distracting. Unless you have an extremely silent keyboard, you don’t want your interviewer to feel like you’re trying to accomplish other tasks while on the phone with them.
Instead, it’s best to take any notes with a pen and paper. They won’t be able to hear you writing, but you’ll still get to jot down some important points you’d like to refer back to later.
6. Get a Glass of Water Before the Interview
On a phone interview, you’re going to be talking a lot, so you may get a little parched. But the last thing you want is the clunking of your ice machine as you try to get yourself a glass of water in the middle of the interview. Instead, prepare yourself by getting a glass ready beforehand.
While you want to avoid eating, drinking or chewing gum during your interview, it’s okay to take small sips of water while the interviewer is talking or asking you a question. If you feel you need to take a longer gulp or you’re too loud, don’t be afraid to temporarily put your phone on mute. Just be sure to take it off before you start talking again.
7. Avoid Interrupting the Interviewer
Doing an interview over the phone can get awkward at times. You both may start talking at the same time, or you may not realize they weren’t done asking a question. Likewise, they may unintentionally cut you off. While this is normal, you want to avoid making a habit out of it.
Never intentionally interrupt your interviewer, unless it is an absolute emergency. If you have questions or need more clarification, wait until they’ve finished speaking to ask. On the chance you do accidentally cut off your interviewer, apologize and allow them to finish. They understand accidents happen, but if you appear rude, it could be the end of your interview process with the company.
8. Think Through Your Response
When you’re talking over the phone, you may feel more pressure to answer immediately than you would in a traditional interview. If you aren’t sure of your answer right away, take a few moments to think of what you would like to say.
If you need a few moments, let the interviewer know that you’ve heard the question and understand it. A simple “great question” or something similar allows the interviewer to know you’re still on the line, but you’re taking a bit of time to craft a response. Try not to leave too much dead air, though.
9. Practice Interviewing
Taking the time to practice an interview can truly make the difference between landing an in-person interview or not — especially if you’re new to the interviewing process. If you’re not properly prepared for the interview, you may struggle to come up with impressive answers on the spot. This leaves you muttering “ums” and “uhs” too frequently.
Ask a friend or family member to do a mock interview with you. If you know someone who is a superstar at the interview process, see if they’d be willing to do a reverse interview where you’re the interviewer and they are the interviewee. This can give you some fresh ideas for how to respond to the questions you may be asked.
10. Take Time Off
If a phone interview is at the beginning of the interview process, it may only be a few minutes. When they’re just screening candidates, usually a half hour is enough time to dedicate to the phone interview process. Unfortunately, you never really know how much time is needed. It is always better to have more time than not enough time.
For candidates already working a full-time job, you may want to consider taking a half day or an extended lunch on the day of your interview. Rather than trying to cram your interview in during a half-hour lunch break or in a mid-day sneak out to your car, ensuring you have more than enough time to complete the interview appropriately can take some serious pressure off your back.
11. Always Be Honest About Problems
There are a lot of problems that may come up during your phone interview, some of them completely out of your control. While you want to do your best to ensure you’re fully prepared for the interview, you also don’t want to try and hide something if a problem comes up. If it is too distracting or must be dealt with immediately, let the interviewer know.
Things like text messages, emails and other anticipated distractions should be completely ignored. But if a child comes bursting into the room or an emergency pops up, don’t be afraid to tell your interviewer what is going on. More times than not, they’ll understand the situation and give you the time to handle it. Admitting something came up is much more professional than only giving half your attention to the interview.
If you want to have a successful phone interview, you need to prepare properly. When you follow these 11 tips, you can be well on your way to acing the phone interview, landing an in-person interview, and getting the job!
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