how to ace a phone interview

How To Ace A Phone Interview

Ah, the dreaded phone interview. It seems like these days, most jobs are requiring at least a preliminary phone screening. Even some retail jobs are adding it to their qualification process.

It makes sense- an employer wants to get a better sense of your general background and emotional IQ before expending resources on an in-person interview. This doesn’t make it any more nerve-wracking for you and I, especially without the chance to make a face-to-face impression.

how to ace a phone interview

I’ve been in the professional world only a few years, and had at least a dozen phone interviews. Some I received an in-person interview from, and some I did not. I wanted to share with you some tips I’ve picked up along the way, so that no matter what type of job you’re going for, you can put your best (metaphorical) foot forward.

Before the interview:

Do your research beforehand…

There’s no law about a cheat sheet, thank god. Coming up with a few comprehensive questions ahead of time like, “What does success in this role look like?” is a great way to show your genuine interest, and writing a few story points and key achievements (think numerically, whatever you can quantify) will help keep you from getting flustered and missing the opportunity to drive home your value.

….But definitely don’t write a script.

Writing down every little finite detail can do more harm than good. Imagine what would happen if you spent a ton of time crafting the perfect response- only to have the interviewer go in a completely different direction than expected? I will neither confirm nor deny this happening to me, but I will say that there is nothing more flustering.

Keep everything within arm’s reach.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Keep your computer close by in case you need to quickly reference some information, and any paper and writing tools you may need. Don’t forget to mute any distracting or noisy electronics to avoid a potential mishap, for example receiving a text alert during a phone call. (I’ve seen a lot of blogs on this topic encouraging the use of a landline, which if you have one, great- but like seriously, be realistic).

During the interview:

Try it standing up.

Don’t laugh at what I’m about to say: strike a pose, there’s nothing to it. Ok, I admit I was baiting you a little there, but I’m actually serious. Studies show that standing or pacing while doing a phone interview can actually raise your confidence levels, both in terms of concentration, strength in tone, and ability to think critically on your feet (again, I’m sorry, I’ve had a ton of coffee).

Listen first, respond second. 

Make sure you thoroughly understand each question, and to avoid awkwardly cutting the interviewer off (guilty as charged). It’s so important to take the time to understand the tone of the interview as the person sets it, to take notes on the fly, especially if you can tie it into a specific skill, and to ultimately find common ground that will help you gain visibility as an ideal candidate.

It’s an interview, not an anecdote.

I constantly struggle with being too wordy and talking around a subject, but in this context, you definitely don’t want to give your interviewer the runaround. In a sense, don’t make them work hard to follow along with what you’re saying- they will lose interest and you will lose an opportunity. Keep your answers short and to the point- it helps to reframe or parrot their question back to them so both of you know where you’re going with your answer. And don’t forget to conclude! Nothing worse than rambling on and on and getting to the end and trailing off with something like “so, yeah!”. Much like an essay, you want to firmly restate your main point in the conclusion. ( “That’s how I achieved x in y situation”).

End on a positive note

It’s common practice to end by thanking your interviewer, but why not take it one step further? Say something personal about the company and your vision for working there, mention your confidence in the necessary skill set to fill the role, and ask what the next steps are, if you’re comfortable. Don’t forget to ask thoughtful questions, as outlined above. You should never say you don’t have questions- this is why you do your research.

After the interview:

Take a deep breath. 

You did it! Try not to think about it too much- it’s a tough market out there, and there is a very real possibility that you won’t be invited for a second round of interviews. That’s okay! It’s good to get some experience even if it doesn’t exactly pan out, because you’re going to have to be comfortable and ready when the right opportunity does come along.

Send a thank-you note.

After you take that chill pill, but before the end of the day, make sure you send a thank you note. An ideal email will thank the interviewer for taking the time to speak with you, reiterate the value you believe you are bringing to the company, and your interest in next steps.

Don’t forget to follow up!

Getting antsy is understandable, but most interviewers won’t get back to you right away. A good rule of thumb is to send a follow up one week following an interview, and again after 2 weeks. You can’t force someone to respond to you- sometimes, it is what it is. But you can at least control all the variables on your side of things by following up in a timely manner to verbally express continued interest.

Phone interviews help get your foot in the door, and provide you the opportunity to make a one-on-one connection with the voice on the other end- something that can be incredibly powerful for those of us with a bit of social anxiety.

Let me know if you have any tips, or if posts like these are helpful!

Keep it real,

-Maggie <3

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