6 Essential Tips For Giving Your Best Phone Interview

Even with the growing popularity of Zoom, Skype, MS Teams, Google Hangouts and FaceTime, the old-fashioned phone interview is here to stay!

After all, once your resume’s been flagged as a possible skill match, it’s a recruiters’ next logical step. Phone interviews are efficient, cost-effective and often a great predictor of cultural and behavioral fit.

But for many, it’s just downright hard to have a thorough and relaxed conversation on the phone with a stranger – especially when that stranger’s evaluating you. Is that silence because the interviewer is writing down what you’re saying? Or are they still waiting for you to say something interesting?

A phone interview is your opportunity to get in the door. You need to take the time to prepare yourself, just as if you were having a real face-to-face interview. Before the phone rings, review these six essential tips for giving your best phone interview – some of them obvious and some of them definitely not:

(A special thanks to Jane Terepocki for sharing her experiences and tips with us.)

Make a List and Check it Twice

Preparation is a given. What might not be so obvious is the importance of creating an “example list” to refer to during the interview. Think of the standard interview questions (strengths, weaknesses, skills, conflict) and create a list of 8 to 10 examples that you can access during the conversation without the long thinking pauses. Jane recommends that you choose examples from across your entire work history. Hiring managers are looking for you to showcase your full breadth of experience, not to share accomplishments from your last role.

Answer With Your Name

If your phone interview is scheduled for 10am and the phone rings at 10am, assume it’s the company calling. The best way to answer the phone is “Hello, this is Jaylene speaking.” Don’t make the hiring manager wonder if your roommate picked up. An open-ended “Hello?” creates an awkward beginning to an already uncomfortable situation.

Scan Your Environment

Noises? Eliminate them. Bad connection? Fix it.

While HR reps are sympathetic to confidentiality issues, trying to hear someone talk from a busy cafe or street corner is frustrating. Jane says she’s even had people do phone interviews while walking their dogs (a major fail). The key? Make it easy for the recruiter to hear you so that he/she can focus more on your answers versus trying to hear them. Come on… it’s not that hard to find a building lobby to step into for a quick, quieter conversation!

Take a Good Look at Yourself

Body language is still important when you’re on the phone. An enthusiastic stance or smile translates into tonal variety and pitch variance. Many recruiters will suggest looking into a mirror so that you can emulate a face-to-face conversation. But, if that feels too awkward, try positioning yourself in front of a softer reflection – a window or a computer screen (turned off, of course).

Stay on Course

When you’re asked a question, especially a tough or complex one, quickly jot it down in as few words as possible (i.e. leadership style?). As you start talking, keep glancing back to this visual guide to help keep your answers concise and on-track. Since phone interviews tend to run much shorter than the face-to-face kind, you’ll want to answer questions in as few words as possible. But above all, make sure you answer the question; lots of people stumble on hard questions and wind up on rants without ever closing the loop.

Resolve Issues Upfront

If you think you’ve got a red flag against you, be proactive in resolving it. For example, if you have a recent long gap in your resume, address it up front. A candidate whom Jane recently interviewed explained her missing year of work history right away (“I just returned from a year-long world-travelling sabbatical”), sending Jane from confused to impressed.

With a little preparation, phone interviews don’t have to be scary. Or awkward. Don’t forget your own vested interest in this low-committal conversation. Use this valuable time to pre-screen your potential employer as well – without ever having to iron a shirt!

I also really like the words of Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook.” He reminds us that “the last few words of a conversation are often the most remembered. So before you press “end,” say thank you and express your interest in the role.



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Smart, Savvy + Associates is a boutique recruitment agency that specializes in helping companies find and hire the marketing, communications and creative professionals they need. From coordinators to C-suite, Smart Savvy is here to simplify the recruitment process and provide best-in-class candidates for their clients in (and around) Vancouver, BC.

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