4 Tips to Ace Phone Interviews

8 Practice Interview Questions

So, you’ve applied for a job and you have an interview. Good news, right?

Except that it’s a phone interview.

And you hate talking on the phone.

Interviews are scary enough when they’re face-to-face, but they’re almost worse when they’re over the phone. It’s more difficult to get your personality across when the interviewer can’t see your expressions and body language. You can’t tell what they’re thinking, either.

How do you ace the interview, make yourself memorable, and not lose your cool while you’re at it?

We’ve got three main tips on how to do phone interviews well, some common phone interview questions so you can prepare yourself for when they inevitably come up, and a couple notes on how to close up the interview and make yourself stick in the interviewer’s brain.

So, take a deep breath, and let’s get started:

Part I: Acing the Interview

Phone interviews kind of suck, but take it from someone who has chronic phone anxiety and has to do this all the time for work: there are some ways to make them suck less.

1. Come Prepared

Just like a regular job interview, you want to do everything in your power to come as prepared as possible. Unlike a regular interview, though, you’re totally allowed to have some tricks up your sleeve.

First thing’s first: the basics. Don’t forget any essential supplies you might need:

  • Have a notepad and pen on you in case you need to write something down (like an address, for instance).
  • Also, be sure to have a glass of water on hand. There’s nothing worse than getting a tickle in your throat mid-interview and subjecting your potential employer to a legendary coughing fit.

And now, for your secret weapon: notes.

Look, in a regular interview, you can’t exactly come in with a big stack of notes on the company, the position, and even yourself. You can’t google things mid-interview to make sure you know what you’re talking about, either. In a phone interview, though, there’s nothing stopping you from doing just that.

Use it to your advantage.

Here’s a list of things you should have in front of you:

  • The cover letter you wrote for the company (both to make sure that you’re consistent, and that you don’t repeat yourself)
  • Your resume
  • Your talking points, like that time you programmed an app or TA’d for your professor at school
  • Any important info about the company. This includes, but isn’t limited to: their values, statement of purpose, company website, who the CEO is, how many employees they have, and the job posting you applied to

This changes the game. Your notes help you sound like you’re super on top of it, even if you’re actually nervous and stumbling over your thoughts.

There’s no reason to make your brain do all the heavy lifting. Let yourself focus on the interview itself, and leave everything else up to the information you gathered beforehand.

The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful. Full stop.

2. Be Professional

This should go without saying…but I’ve done so many phone interviews in my life and let me tell you: the temptation to forgo pants “just because they’ll never know” is real.

Don’t give in to it.

You’ll be way so distracted by the thought of “haha, I didn’t even get dressed for this!” that you won’t be at the top of your game. Don’t do that to yourself. You (and the interviewer) deserve better.

Instead, wear clothes that make you feel professional and confident. It doesn’t have to be a power suit, unless that’s your thing. If you feel comfortable and confident in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, then wear that.

Science tells us the clothes you wear affect your attitude, and your attitude is everything. Especially over the phone. You’re going to have to put in 200% to make sure that you sound engaged, competent, and bright.

  • Smile. This is the simplest thing you can do. People can actually tell when you’re smiling. Your voice sounds different when you are. Dale Carnegie actually says this on page 68 in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleIt “comes through” in your voice
  • Wear headphones. It helps eliminate echo, lets you walk around, and leaves your hands free for gestures. And when you’re hands are free to gesture, you’ll feel more engaged and, subsequently, sound more engaged
  • Watch yourself in the mirror if you have to. Pay attention to your own body language.
  • Over-emote with your voice. You’re going to have to inject a little more enthusiasm into your voice than you would normally
  • Don’t interrupt, and listen carefully to what the interviewer is saying. Repeat questions back to them in your own words to make sure that you understand them before answering. Ask for clarification if you need it
  • Slow down, and speak clearly

Oh, and one more thing: if you have roommates or family living with you, let them know what you’ll be doing so they don’t interrupt you to ask where their keys are or what you want for dinner. If you have pets, it’s probably best to shut them out of the room. I know they’re cute, but they’re also terribly distracting.

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