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Phone Interview Tips
So, you’ve created a great resume and cover letter, successfully passed both through the applicant tracking system (ATS) and impressed a hiring manager, and now it’s time for your job interview. In some cases this means a face-to-face meeting but phone interviews are becoming more and more common. So what is a phone interview? How does it differ from a traditional interview and how can you ace yours to ensure you get a second interview? Use the phone interview tips in the article below to help answer these questions and win over the hiring manager in your next interview.
What is a phone interview?
At its core, a telephone interview is just a job interview that takes place over the phone; so, while it may look and feel a little different, you should treat it the same way as you would a traditional interview. The main difference is that the recruiter will not be able to see you (unless the job interview is conducted via Zoom or an equivalent platform). This takes some of the stress out of interviews for some people and means that you don’t need to spend preparation time worrying about your appearance. However, this also means all of the focus will be on what you say and how you answer interview questions.
There are a few reasons why companies opt to conduct initial interviews over the phone. The most common are:
- To quickly eliminate unsuitable candidates
- To connect with international candidates
- To speed up the interview process when choosing among numerous candidates
- To interview candidates who are out of town or unavailable for an in-person meeting
Phone interviews require fewer resources and time to conduct, so many businesses now prefer them for initial discussions. Most follow-up interviews will take place in person assuming there are no mitigating circumstances such as distance. Incredibly specialized positions may be open to international candidates, so the majority of the interview process may be by phone or video conferencing options.
Why do companies use phone interviews?
Just as many large companies have started using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter job applications and resumes, recruiters for large companies often complete initial interviews via phone. This is a resource and time-efficient way to screen candidates with promising resumes quickly.
Those who excel in phone interviews will often be invited for an in-person follow-up interview. So, it pays to brush up on your phone interview skills if you’re looking for a new job.
20 common phone interview questions to prepare for
The job interview questions that you get at a phone interview will typically be the same specific questions you might find at any job interview. Just like in a face-to-face interview, having a good answer can be more about knowing how to navigate the responses given in an interview than anything else. Here are a few common phone interview questions to prepare for, especially if you’re in the first round of interviews:
Questions about your background:
Questions like the ones below will be used to assess whether or not you have the right qualifications for the role and how you would function in a team environment.
- What is the biggest challenge in your current role?
- Why should we hire you?
- Why did you leave/are you leaving your current/last job?
- What major challenges and problems did you face? How did you handle them?
- How would you best describe your typical work week?
Questions about your personality and goals:
These types of questions are used to showcase your ability for self-reflection and get a sense of how you envision your future.
- Why do you want to work here?
- What challenges are you looking for in a position?
- What can you contribute to this company?
- Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
- What are your passions?
Questions about the job and how well you’ll perform:
Do you have what it takes to get the job done, regardless of potential obstacles? Hiring managers want to know how resourceful you can be and that you are the kind of person that can find solutions to obstacles despite the circumstances.
- Can you give an example of a challenging project or task that you’re particularly proud you completed?
- Why do you think you would perform well in this job?
- What skills or abilities do you have that will help you in this role?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness?
Questions you can ask the interviewer:
Asking questions to your interviewer not only shows that you’ve researched the position and are interested in the company, but that you want to build a rapport and fully participate in the dialogue.
- How would you describe the company culture?
- How would success in the role be measured?
- What do you view as the most challenging part of this job?
- What would my day-to-day routine look like if I got the job?
- Are there opportunities to further my growth in this role?
Keep in mind that you may get a wide variety of questions, just like in any other type of interview. Questions may center around the work environment, your skill set and your current employer. You may also want to prepare for behavioral interview questions, where an interviewer will ask you specific questions about a situation and see how you respond.
How to prepare for a phone interview in 7 steps
A traditional, face-to-face interview relies partly on body language and presentation. Because you will not be able to rely on this in a phone interview, it is important that you practice clear communication. The hiring manager will be focused on what you have to say and how you say it.
1. Research the company
You should research the history and ethos of the company you have applied to before a phone interview, just as you would for an in-person interview. Highlight parts of the company’s history or values that appeal to you. Your interviewer may ask why you want to work for the company and being able to answer promptly and confidently will make a good first impression.
2. Prepare for common interview questions
Preparation is key, but that doesn’t mean you should script answers. Instead, consider common interview questions and ask people you know to help you prepare. Undertake some mock interviews before your phone interview. This will help you to get comfortable and answer questions naturally.
3. Make sure your phone is charged and working
In addition to these preparations, you should make sure the “technical” side of your interview is taken care of. Make sure you have good phone reception in the place you’ll have your interview, and have your phone charged and ready.
4. Clear a secure space
Because a phone interview is likely to take place in your home, you should clear a space free and remove distractions ahead of your interview. This is of particular importance if it is your first interview, but is always advisable. Make sure that your TV is off to minimize background noise. You should also let anyone in your home know that you will be unavailable during the period around the interview.
5. Create a “cheat sheet”
Have company and personal highlights written down so you can use it during the phone call. On this sheet, you should also make a list of follow-up questions that you wish to ask the hiring manager. Remember that a first interview is not the time to discuss salary expectations — the only exception to this is if the recruiter specifically asks you about this topic.
6. Have a copy of your resume ready
Print a copy of your resume and keep it with you during your phone or video interview in case the recruiter wants to discuss something specific from your background. Want to make sure your resume looks its best? Use our Resume Builder, with its professional templates and expert suggestions on filling out each section.
7. Write a list of questions to ask
At the end of an interview, it is common for hiring managers to ask if you have any questions. This is your opportunity to get more details about the company and confirm if it will be a great match. Make this time work for you by having questions at the ready about the company culture and job description. Don’t be afraid to be honest and curious; you should want to know if the company fits you as well as if you fit the job, particularly if you’re seeking a second interview.
Finally, remember that soft skills are very important in the job market right now, with recruiters in every industry looking for people who can communicate, solve problems and think creatively. A phone interview is the first real opportunity to showcase these skills, so you need to put your best foot forward.
5 phone interview tips to help you excel
Conducting a phone interview requires a specific skill set. If you want to impress potential employers and land your dream job, follow these simple tips:
1. Be punctual
Ensure you are ready to begin five minutes before the phone call starts. You want to answer the call confidently and calmly, not in a rushed or stressed manner. Have a glass of water close by in case you need it.
2. Manage the tone
Hiring managers will be listening to the tone of your voice carefully. Stay cheerful and calm, and try to speak clearly. If you are asked questions about previous employers, be positive, even if the experience was not. Do not bad-mouth past employers, managers or coworkers as this can stop you from getting a second interview.
3. Don’t rush
Take your time to think about your answers and questions. Don’t be afraid of short silences or small talk. Recruiters will be trying to gauge your personality as well as your skills. This is a normal part of the interview process.
4. Take notes
Jot down important details and questions that come to mind throughout the interview. This will help you to keep track of your thoughts and the details of the interview.
If you want to really impress a potential employer, send a follow-up thank you note after your interview. This will help you to stick in the recruiter’s mind.
Perhaps the best career advice anyone can give is to practice your phone call mannerisms and communication skills regularly. Remember that both the tone and speed of your voice will have an impact.
The big takeaways:
Once the phone interview begins there are some basic things that you can keep in mind to help you really impress the recruiter and land a follow-up interview:
- Be prepared to confirm your contact information.
- Be positive when talking about your current or previous jobs.
- Be truthful and concise in your answers.
- Be confident and direct about what makes you a great job candidate.
- Actively listen to questions before answering.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
- Be polite and formal.
- Ask follow-up questions.
FAQ: Phone interview tips
Q: What is the most common phone interview mistake to avoid?
One of the most common mistakes that job seekers make in initial phone interviews is to discuss salary expectations. Leave this for further along in the hiring process. You should also check for noise pollution such as background noise from equipment, open windows, children or pets in the area could cause an interruption. Make sure to also double-check your connection and take any other necessary steps before your interview to ensure a quiet, uninterrupted talk with your potential employer.
Q: Are phone interviews less formal than in-person interviews?
Even though no one will be seeing you, avoid the temptation to stay in your pajamas or even your regular street clothes for a phone interview. Instead, put as much effort into preparing for your phone interview as you would an in-person interview. Your confidence will go up when you dress professionally — you should dress how you feel most comfortable and confident, as this will enable you to be your best self.
Q: What should I say in a telephone interview?
Before you begin your interview, take the time to collect your thoughts and think about what matters to you and what your employer will be interested in hearing. Depending on the position you are applying for, topics such as achievements, hobbies, interests and goals may come up. A good tip to keep the conversation flowing is to pick a few company highlights and make a plan to refer back to those during the interview.
Q: How can I impress a phone interviewer?
Your tone of voice is especially important over the phone so practice infusing the right amount of enthusiasm, professionalism and good humor in your voice. You might even try on your “interview voice” with friends to make sure it sounds correct and projects the right combination of confidence, expertise and positivity. The main way to feel better about interviewing is to be prepared and put yourself in an environment where you feel confident. Getting in the proper place and headspace will help your interview go smoothly and you will find the process much less stressful.
Q: What should I expect from a phone interview?
One main difference in a phone interview is that you will rely entirely on this technology, so even a minor glitch can affect your chances. If you are using a cordless or cell phone, make sure it is fully charged. For smartphones, make sure no apps are running that might interrupt the call and take time to test your headset, speakers or headphones for functionality.
Q: How do you prepare for a phone interview?
Preparing for a phone interview is very similar to preparing for a traditional assessment. If you have specific points you want to discuss, write them down so you can refer to them while you are talking. Your employer won’t be able to see your attention straying to your notes so you will have a much better chance of remembering all that you need to say. In addition to documents and notes, have a glass of water nearby in case you need to clear your throat during the interview.
Q: Should I send a thank-you note or a thank-you email?
Whether you send a letter or an email as a follow-up after your initial interview is a small detail, but it can make a difference. If you are applying to a company that has a traditional image, a physical thank-you note may be ideal. A more modern company, however, may prefer an email.