Honing in on phone skills for your phone interview

You need to be on your game! Think you can ace the phone interview by just being polite?  Think again! You need to have all your ducks in a row.  All that time you spent on the great resume that got you the interview will go down the drain if you blow it in the phone interview.  From our experience, the tips below are always useful to candidates.  Follow them and you'll give yourself the best chance to make it to the next round.  Good luck!

Have a Copy of Your Resume in Front of You.  One advantage of a phone interview is that you have your resume at your fingertips.  Therefore, you'll be sure to make all the points you want to make.  Use a highlighter to emphasize everything you want to say.  When referencing your resume, don't read from it.  Make it sound natural. Be relaxed (but still on your guard) so it doesn't sound rehearsed.

Know if You are Placing or Receiving the Call.  If placing the call, be on time.  If receiving the call, make sure you're available at the designated time.  Don't be late under any circumstance.

Be Enthusiastic. Some people find it helps to smile while they talk.  Do whatever it takes, but always be positive.  Remember, the employer is using the phone interview to screen out people so you want to keep yourself in the running.  Keep the conversation congenial, but always with a business focus.

Conduct the Phone Interview on a Landline if Possible.  Outside technical interference can be very annoying.  You want your interviewer to remember all the good things you said, not the way your voice faded in and out with the strength of your cell service.

Conduct the Phone Interview from a Quiet, Closed-door Room/Office.  Always remember, if you're participating in the interview from home, this interview is a business proposition.  Your voice is the only thing your interviewer wants to hear on the other end of the line.  There should be no loud people or playful, disruptive children, no barking dogs, no radio, television or any other extraneous noise.  Make sure your cell phone is turned off and put away. 

Match Your Style to That of Your Interviewer. If the interviewer doesn't mention any non-business topics, you shouldn't either.  You want to create in the interviewer's mind an impression that he/she could work well with you.  If you're polar opposites, your interviewer will easily see it.  Try to make the conversation easy for the interviewer and you'll score big points.

Never (or Almost Never!) Interrupt. Even though it's difficult because you can't read body language in a phone interview, always wait until your interviewer has finished before interjecting a thought.  One or two slight interjections is fine to show enthusiasm, but constant interruption will only annoy your interviewer!

Typical Interview Questions. Prepare yourself with responses to questions your interviewer will likely ask.  Typical questions can include:

  • What is your most significant career accomplishment to date?
  • What unique qualifications do you bring to the position that other candidates don't?
  • Where can you add value to our company?
  • What is your most admirable quality?
  • On what quality might you improve?

Recap your "fit" for the job. Be ready with a 30-second summary of why you're the right person for the job, using examples from your work history.

Ask about next steps. At the end of the call, ask how well your qualifications meet the company's needs. This will give you a chance to address minor issues immediately. Then ask when you might meet in person.

Remember to Say Thank You. Thank your interviewer at the end of the call and follow up with a handwritten or emailed thank-you note. Interviewers will remember courtesy and will keep you top-of-mind if you're a finalist. Proofread your note and have others do so, too. If there are typos in the note, you would have been better off sending nothing at all.

CLICK HERE to read our general interview tips which will also help in a phone interview.