Artwork by: Ivan Globin
Many companies conduct phone interviews to learn more about an applicant and whether they have the right skills and aptitude for the job. Read on to learn more about what happens during a phone interview and how to outshine during these interviews.
After you’ve applied for a job and your resume stands out among other applicants, your potential employer might inform you that they want to contact you via phone to learn more about you. With the right phone interview tips, you can ace your interview, make a solid first impression, and move on to the next round of the hiring process.
If you’re looking for answers to one or more of the following questions, we’ve got you covered:
How to prepare for a phone interview
How do you ace a phone interview?
What should I say during a phone interview?
How do I sell myself during a phone interview?
Before your phone interview, you must spend some time preparing for the interview and getting all your ducks in a row. Here are a few phone interview tips you should consider:
Typically, a company will send you an email to inform you about the date and time for the phone interview. Review the email carefully. If you receive a quick call about the interview details, make sure to note down the information. You should be crystal clear on:
The date and time of the phone interview
The name and details of the interviewer
What number will they call you on
If you’re unclear on the details of the interview, you can send out the following email to the company’s HR Department or another point of contact:
I’m excited about the upcoming phone interview. Just to confirm, is the interview scheduled on [date] at [time]? Also, is there anything you need from me before the call? I look forward to your response.
Don’t take the phone interview casually. Remember, the first impression is often the last impression. The more you’re prepared for the interview, the more likely you are to get hired.
Make sure to review the job description thoroughly to understand your potential job role and responsibilities in detail. This might also give you some talking points for the interview. Read more about the company, and pay special attention to any noteworthy events that have happened (such as the company landing a major business deal).
Finally, learn more about your interviewer. Visit their LinkedIn profile to check their job title, tenure with the company, and any other details that will help you make a conversation with them.
Whether the phone interview is just a screening formality or an in-depth look into your suitability for the job, it’s important to think about how to respond to questions about salary. Do some research to figure out the average salary for the job title in your region. If the salary is not mentioned in the job description, you can use the phone interview to ask this question. Be prepared to counter the compensation offer if it’s not what you’re looking for.
Think of your phone interview as an in-person interview. You should look for a quiet place in your home with no distractions where you can respond to all questions without any interruptions. Consider getting some noise-canceling headphones, and make sure your cell phone is fully charged before the interview.
You should also consider dressing up for the interview. Even though the interviewer won’t see what you’re wearing, wearing some formal clothes can help you feel more confident and prepared during the interview.
They say that practice makes perfect. Do some research on commonly-asked phone interview questions, and prepare a script with answers to those questions. Next, practice your answers. You can even request a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview.
Now that you’re done preparing for the phone interview, the next step is to consider what to do during the actual interview. You want to portray yourself as the ideal candidate for the job while keeping the tone friendly and professional and the conversation on track. Here are a few things you need to do.
As soon as your phone rings, pick it up on the second or third ring. Don’t let it ring for too long. When you answer the phone, introduce yourself and let the interviewer know that it’s great to speak with them. Also, thank them for calling you. This way, you’ll start the interview as confident, without sounding arrogant or vague.
Even though the phone call is about a potential job offer, you don’t have to jump right into business. Consider asking the interviewer about how their day is going, talk about the weather, or ask about their weekend to get the conversation started.
Engaging in small talk is not only polite, but it’s also a good way to make a lasting first impression. Starting off on a positive note also helps you and your interviewer ease into the conversation. However, make sure to keep this chatter short and move on to the interview.
If there’s any background noise on your end, apologize and address the disruption. You don’t want to make it difficult for the interviewer to hear your response. In case the background noise is beyond your control, such as your fire alarm going off or some construction outside, put your phone on mute when you’re not talking.
During the phone interview, your interviewer cannot see your face or your body language to assess your nonverbal cues. Since they can’t see you, you’ll have to make an extra effort to show your enthusiasm and excitement for the job opportunity.
To show your keenness for the job, you should smile and use hand gestures during the phone interview. This will automatically add some positive emotion to your voice. You can also get up and walk around if that helps you sound lively and jovial on the phone! However, make sure not to go overboard with your emotions. Pay attention to how loud you’re talking and consider lowering your volume if you’re getting too excited.
Since phone interviews don’t involve face-to-face interactions, there might be long pauses and awkward social moments during the interview. Also, if there are issues in cell phone reception, you and your interviewer are likely to ask each other to repeat key information. If you run into a situation where there’s a pause in the conversation, it’s okay to take a step back and breathe. You don’t want to sound like a robot that goes on and on.
When your interviewer asks you a question, don’t respond immediately. Wait for a beat or two before answering. If your interviewer interrupts you during an answer, it could either mean that they’re fixing some technical issues on their end or they’re trying to steer the conversation in a particular manner. In either case, stop talking and let them finish.
The last thing you would want in an interview is for the interviewer to keep asking you, “Could you repeat that?” every time you say something. While it’s good to show your enthusiasm, it’s important to talk slowly and say each word carefully. Self-awareness is crucial during a phone interview.
During the interview, pay close attention to your interviewer and every word they say. Practice active listening and don’t engage in multi-tasking (such as reading your notes) while the interviewer is talking. Even if you are taking notes while the interviewer is speaking, make sure to say “hm”, “yes”, “got it” and other phrases just to let the interviewer know that you’re listening to them.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer. Let them know that it was a pleasure talking to them and that you hope to hear from them again. Also, let them know that if they require any more information about you or documentation from you, they can reach out to you. Show your enthusiasm for the next phase of the hiring process, and make sure you fully understand what the next step will be.
Your phone interview does not necessarily end when the interviewer hangs up the phone. After the interview is over, here are a few things you need to do:
As soon as the interviewer hangs up, your mind still has all the information stored. Before you forget, note down any important points that were discussed during the interview. Maybe the interviewer briefly talked about the salary, the work culture, your job role, or an upcoming event that you need to do some further research on.
Since your phone interview is likely to be the first round of a series of interviews, you wouldn’t want to walk into the next round completely unprepared or without any follow-up questions from the first interview.
Ideally, you would want to send a thank-you note to the interviewer on the same day the interview took place. In this email, you must thank the interviewer for taking out the time to talk to you, briefly talk about the conversation topics you found impressive, and focus on your passion to help the organization achieve its objectives.
Here’s a sample thank-you email you can use.
Thank you for taking out the time to talk to me today and walking me through about your organization and the job role. It was a pleasure!
I really enjoyed learning more about [Company Name] and how it contributes positively to its customer base and community at large. I’m also fascinated by the company’s expansion plans and your leadership style, and I’d love to be a part of the growing team.
If you need any further information from me, please feel free to reach out to me. You can email me at [email address] or call me at [number]. I look forward to hearing from you.
If you don’t hear back from the interviewer, company, hiring manager, or recruiter in a week, you should consider sending them a follow-up email. The company will likely be conducting more interviews for the job role, but it’s okay for you to reach out and request an update. This email should be short, polite, and professional.
Here’s a sample follow-up email you can use.
I hope this email finds you well. It was really nice talking to you last week!
I was wondering if there’s any update on the hiring process for [jole role] at [company name]. I understand it might be too early for a follow-up, but if there’s anything you need from me to help you make your decision, please let me know.
Phone interviews are typically conducted to learn more about a job applicant and determine whether they are suitable for the job role. Such interviews are also crucial for job applicants to learn more about the company and its culture.
If you’ve been invited to a phone interview, don’t panic. Start by doing your research and preparing your interview script. Next, practice your answers as much as possible.
Make sure to keep your tone positive and professional during the interview. Practice active listening, talk slowly, and take some notes during the meeting.
Asad's writing expertise lies in the fields of HR and marketing—putting him in the unique position of understanding the job-search process: both from the side of the applicant, and the side of the hiring managers. With this valuable blend of perspectives, he’s able to help his clients position themselves as top candidates for their desired roles.