How to Rock a Phone Interview

 
 

If there's one thing I know about phone interviews, it's that you can't phone them in. Literally. 

Being prepared and having an idea of questions that you may be asked will certainly pay off and help you to feel more comfortable as the interview goes on. During your call, you may encounter questions ranging from the basics like your work history and professional experience to more situational and behavioral questions. 

If you recently applied for a job and having a call with a recruiter is part of the interview process, you'll definitely want to check out these tips. Keep these in mind to ensure you rock your next phone interview: 

Add the phone interview date and time to your calendar or agenda as soon as you're made aware of it
A new job is potentially riding on this phone interview! It's something you can't miss or forget about. As soon as you and the recruiter you're working with settle on a date and time for your phone call, put it on your calendar and set a reminder. 

Determine ahead of time whether the recruiter will be calling you or if you have to call the recruiter
Even prior to your phone interview, communications is key! Make sure that you're on the same page with the recruiter in terms of who will be calling who. In most cases, the recruiter will call the number you provide, but it doesn't hurt to be extra sure and specify ahead of time. 

Take the call in a private place free from all noises and distractions
The last thing you want during a phone interview is to be distracted. This is a time when you need to focus, so finding a distraction-free space is absolutely essential. On top of that, you need a space that is quiet so you can clearly hear the questions being asked and you can clearly give your responses. If you're unable to be home during your phone interview, you could take the call in a private room at your local library or even in your car.

  • Protip: make sure there is good cell phone reception wherever you take the call from. It would be embarrassing for the call to be dropped due to a bad signal on your end. If you have a quiet place in mind and you're thinking you want to use it for your phone interview, call a friend or family member first to test out the reception. It's always better to be safe than sorry. 
 
 

Remain calm and speak at a moderate pace
Any type of interview can be nerve-wracking, but remember to keep your nerves in check (I know, I know, this is easier said than done). Try your best to avoid talking fast and saying filler words such as "um," "like," or "kind of." If you need to, take a few moments after each question is asked to gather your thoughts before you give your answer. You can always acknowledge the question by saying something like "of course" or "definitely," and buy yourself a little bit of time before going into your full answer. 

Anticipate the questions you might be asked during your interview and prepare answers ahead of time
This is where doing your homework on the company comes into play. You don't need to know the nitty gritty details about the company you've applied to, but you at least need to know the basics. Who is the CEO? What's the company's mission statement? Who are their competitors? Be sure to know the answers to these questions and also think of things you may be asked about that pertain to the particular role that you're interested in. Writing out the questions and your potential answers and studying them can help tremendously. Additionally, if you can find a family member or friend who is willing to do a mock interview with you, that's never a bad idea. 

  • Protip: put questions you may get asked and your answers in a Word document. Print it out and have it in front of you during your interview. Be sure to organize the questions by topic so you can easily locate your answer if the recruiter does in fact ask a question that you had previously prepared for. 

Determine if there is anything you have in common with the recruiter and bring it up during your conversation in a natural, non-creepy way
If you have a few days to prepare for your interview, take a look at the recruiter's LinkedIn profile and see if you have anything in common with them. Did you go to the same college? Do you live in the same city? Do you have any mutual connections on LinkedIn? As long as there is a natural opportunity to do so during the interview, you could mention that you have the same alma mater or you grew up in the next town over. Whatever you do, don't lie! If you don't have anything in common with the recruiter, that's totally fine! Just go through the interview as normal. 

 
 

Keep a glass or bottle of water nearby
No matter how long your conversation is, having water handy is always a good idea. You never know if your mouth will become dry from all the talking or if you'll begin to cough. It's best to be ready and have water on deck in case you need to take a quick swig. Plus, having something to drink may even help to keep you calm. 

Be prepared to talk about things like salary and previous work history
Don't be fooled - just because you're speaking with the recruiter over the phone and not face to face doesn't mean that you won't get asked about your current salary and what your ideal salary for the listed position is. Do your research and have an idea of the salary you'd like to be making if offered the position you're interviewing for. One tactic you could try is to turn the question back on the interviewer and say something like: "I feel that I bring many skills to the table for this position. Is there a certain salary range you have in mind?" Furthermore, if you have a gap in your resume, chances are that the recruiter will ask you about it. As long as you can explain the reasoning behind the gap in your work history, you should be a-okay! 

Compile a list of questions to ask the recruiter
Depending on how your conversation flows, you'll definitely want to have some questions about the position or the company prepared. The HR rep you speak to should have a good handle on the job you're applying for, so feel free to ask them anything you want to know about the role that wasn't covered during the interview. If you need further clarification, there may be a chance for you to ask a follow up question during an in-person interview if you get invited to participate in one. It's best to have anywhere from one to three questions prepared, but feel free to come up with more. Don't be surprised if many of your questions are actually be answered as you go through the interview.  
 

 
 

Thank the recruiter for their time and make sure next steps are clear
Whatever you do, leave the conversation on a good note! Don't forget to thank the recruiter for their time and let them know that you enjoyed the conversation. You can explain that you were happy to learn more about the opportunity and you're looking forward to potentially joining the team at the company you're interviewing with. You don't need to go on and on - just keep it short and sweet! Before you hang up, ask the recruiter to specify what the next steps are so you're in the loop. 

Send a hand-written thank you note to show the company rep that you appreciated your conversation
Leave a lasting impression and make it a point to write and mail a hand-written thank you card to the recruiter you spoke with. Sending a hand-written thank you note is a great personal touch and will show the HR department that you're truly excited about the job opportunity. If you're on a strict timeline and you can't send a thank you note in the mail, an email will suffice. Just be sure to proofread whatever you write before you send it and ensure that the note is genuine. 

Whether this is your first phone interview or your 100th, a little bit of preparation and some confidence can go a long way! Remember to keep the tips above in mind and just be yourself whenever you speak on the phone with recruiters and HR professionals. 

Lastly, don't forget to set up a professional voicemail greeting! You never know if your interviewer will try to give you a call after your phone interview is done to set up an in-person interview. 

Have you ever had a phone interview? How did you prepare for it and what are your favorite tips?
Share in the comments below!