How To Ace A Phone Interview

Elizabeth Witbeck

How To Ace A Phone Interview

You have been sending in job application after job application. You may have applied to several dozen jobs without hearing anything back. Then one day, you receive an email that says “Thank you for your application. Please let us know what times you are available for a phone interview.”

A phone interview is not an offer of employment. But for somebody who is unemployed, an invitation for a phone interview can seem like a sweet taste of success. The company has let you know that they are impressed with your application, and they would like to get to know you better.

This is your opportunity to impress the hiring manager with your skills and experience.

What is the Purpose of a Phone Interview?

Hiring new employees is a lot of work for companies. Businesses go through many steps to ensure they hire an employee who is the best fit for the position. When they post an advertisement for a job opening, they often receive one hundred or more applications.

A manager will filter through these job applications, deciding who meets the preliminary requirements for the job. Anybody who seems like they would be a good fit for the job may be asked to have a phone interview.

A phone interview is one of usually several steps in the interviewing process. During a phone interview, a hiring manager will decide if you are a good fit for the position. If you are a good fit, they will advance you to the next round. If a manager decides you are not a good fit, it is okay, because each of you only spent about 30 minutes talking to each other.

Phone interviews are a small investment to make within the interviewing process. The time, money and resources involved, for managers and job candidates, are much smaller than in-person interviews.

Be Prepared

You need to prepare for this interview just like it was an in-person interview.

  • Start by researching the company.
  • Understand the history of the business you are applying with, as well as their recent news.
  • Learn about their products and services.
  • Research the role that you are applying for at the company.
  • Understand the responsibilities that you will need to fulfill in this position.

During the interview, the manager is going to ask questions about your past experience. Often one of the first questions is “Walk me through your resume.” The manager wants to hear, from you, the highlights of your career. This is similar to your elevator speech.

Be prepared to discuss the most relevant jobs you have had, related to the position you are applying for. Also discuss the accomplishments you achieved in those positions, which went above and beyond what you were hired to do.

In a phone interview, there are certain things you can get away with, that you couldn’t do during an in-person interview. One of these is having your resume right next to you. It is encouraged to keep your resume in front of you during a phone interview.

This gives you an advantage in the interview, as you can easily remember all of the key positions you have had. It is also a good idea to keep next to you a written list of your accomplishments within those jobs.

Phone Interview Questions and Answers

An interview is an opportunity for you and the manager to get to know each other better, and understand if you would be a good fit. The phone interview is conducted in much the same way as an in-person interview.

Remember to prepare yourself for questions that the hiring manager will ask. The most common questions asked are ones such as “Tell me about yourself”, “What are some of your strengths?” and “Tell me about a time when…” followed by a situation you probably encountered on the job.

It’s important to prepare answers to these questions in advance. Practice your answers so you know what you will say when asked a particular question. No matter how much you prepare, an interviewer will always ask you a question you wouldn’t expect.

By practicing, you will have an advantage in the interview, be less stressed, and sound more impressive.

You should also have a list of questions ready to ask the manager, at the end of the interview. These should be questions that you genuinely want to know the answers to, and will help you understand the job position better.

You can keep a cheat sheet next to you during the phone interview. You can have a list of questions, with your answers written next to them, which you can glance at if you stumble on one of the questions. You won’t be able to do this in an in-person interview, so you should be as prepared as you can, without using notes.

Set the Tone for a Great Phone Interview

A phone interview is an important opportunity to impress the hiring manager of a company. You are not meeting this person face-to-face, but you should still act as if this is a professional meeting between the two of you.

Technically, you could sit at home and wear pajamas while you are talking to the hiring manager on the phone. It is recommended that you wear business attire: consider wearing a blazer, blouse, dress pants, or perhaps even a suit. This will put you into the mindset that this is an important business interview you are conducting.

Your interviewer can’t see you; they can only hear you. For this reason, everything that you say, and how you say it, becomes more important. It is necessary to inflate the tone of your speech.
Remember to smile when you talk, as this helps you to sound more excited and optimistic. It also helps to sit up straight, to stand, or to walk around when you talk, as this increases the volume of your voice. Speak slowly and clearly. During a phone interview it is important for your words not to come across as flat, monotone or robotic.

If you have access to a landline, that is the best way to conduct a phone interview. Cell phones often receive bad reception, and it would be horrible to have your call dropped or be full of static in the middle of the interview. Instead, give the interviewer a landline phone number they can reach you at.

For those who do not have access to a landline, there are steps you should take when using a cell phone.

  1. Make sure you are in an area with excellent reception.
  2. You must turn off call waiting on your phone.

Why? Imagine being on the phone with a hiring manager, when all of a sudden you get a beep on your phone: it is your mother, wondering if you would like to come over tonight for dinner. Set your phone up so that any incoming calls will be set to voicemail.

It is important to be completely undistracted when you are in your phone interview. If you can, arrange your interview for a time when you will be home alone. Otherwise, be sure everybody in your home knows that you are in a phone interview, and they are not allowed to disturb you.

Find yourself a room to go in where you can make the call. The room should be quiet and free from distractions, allowing you to only focus on the manager.

A phone interview is one of many steps in the hiring process. Use these tips wisely and you will be one step closer to the next phase in interviewing.

About The Author

Elizabeth Witbeck

Elizabeth Witbeck works as a college consultant and educational entrepreneur. She launched the first business in the United States that sends care packages to first generation college students, and also helps prospective college students on their applications. Her interests include education, poverty, and working with youth.

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