Six Ways to Ace a Phone Interview

Last week we wrote about six ways to bomb a phone interview, so, as promised, this week we’re going to provide some tips for acing a phone interview!  Phone interviews are becoming more and more common as companies and recruiters try to weed out poor applicants before spending the time and resources to bring in candidates for an in-person interview.  They have become an inescapable part of the modern job application process, so all candidates need to be familiar with the do’s and don’ts of a successful call.

One: Use an Appropriate Greeting

As we mentioned in last week’s article, answering the phone in an inappropriate manner can set the interview off on the wrong foot before it’s even officially begun.  When you answer the phone, make sure to use your own name so that the interviewer knows they have reached the right person, and, if possible, reference the interviewer’s name and the company.  For example, you might say: “Hello, John Smith speaking.  Is this Jane Doe from Oracle?” This will skip any awkwardness where Jane Doe has to figure out whether or not she has actually reached John Smith or if she has dialed a wrong number, and will confirm that you are prepared for the interview.

Two: Use Verbal Cues

One of the most difficult things about a phone interview (or indeed any phone call) is figuring out when the person on the other end of the line is done speaking.  This can create a lot of awkwardness and confusion, with people accidentally talking over each other and then wasting time apologizing and trying to get back on track.  Use verbal cues to let your interviewer know when you have finished answering your question, rather than simply trailing off or sitting in silence.  The most effective method is to end your answer by repeating the question.  For example, you might say (in a firm tone), “That’s why that was my favorite project at my current job,” or, “And that is how I resolved that conflict between my two team members.”

Three: Listen and Make Connections

Phone interviews, like in-person interviews, are not one-way: the interviewer is going to devote some time to talk about the company and the position, and will not spend the entire time asking you questions.  When the interviewer is describing the job, listen carefully and think of ways you can make a connection between the job responsibilities and things you have done in the past.  For example, if the interviewer mentions that the position involves a lot of research, you might say, “Oh, that sounds a lot like what I did when I was at company X; I spent several hours a day conducting research and incorporating my findings into client deliverables.”  These connections will show that you are paying close attention to what the interviewer is saying, and demonstrate that you are capable of fulfilling the job functions.

Four: Use Body Language

The interviewer may not be able to see you in person, but that’s no excuse to be slouched over your desk and snarling!  When you’re going through a phone interview, focus on using the same type of body language you would during a regular interview: sit up straight and smile.  These simple actions will have a large impact on your tone of voice, and will help you convey confidence and enthusiasm – even over the phone.

Five: Don’t Ramble

Silence can be awkward, especially over the phone.  If your interviewer isn’t picking up on your verbal cues, or if they need a few minutes to write down something important you said, don’t try to fill the empty space with chatter or by elaborating needlessly on your last response.  Silence on the other end of the line does not mean that your interviewer is unhappy, or that they would like you to say more!  It can mean any number of things: they are thinking about what to ask next, an e-mail popped up that they needed to quickly respond to, they are checking the time to see if the call has run over, they are glancing over your résumé, they are jotting down a note, they want to ensure that you have finished… Embrace the silence and remain calm; the interviewer will pick up the conversation as soon as they are ready.

Six: End on a Positive Note

When the interview is over, end the call on a positive note and inquire about next steps.  Thank the interviewer for their time and mention how much you enjoyed learning about the company and what a good fit you think you’d be for the position.  Ask when you can expect to hear back, and how you should follow up.  Finally, after the call is over, take a few minutes to quickly send off a thank-you e-mail that reiterates what you said at the end of the interview. 

Good luck on your next phone interview!  If you’ve seen anything in this article that you have questions about, have other concerns you would like to discuss, or would like to do a practice interview, reach out to us today!  We’re here to help with all of your job searching needs.

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