15 phone interview tips to get you to the next round
Show me a person who likes phone interviews, and I’ll Venmo you a $20.
Okay, not really (I don’t know your account name, so how could I?). But the point is: there’s nothing easy about getting on a call where you can’t see the other person’s facial expressions or physical cues, then trying to remind yourself to talk slowly, all while worrying about background noises — I could go on. Unfortunately, phone interviewing is also where every job opportunity starts. So, how do you make them easier?
Here are the best phone interview tips I’ve collected from professional recruiters and, of course, the internet.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #1: UNDERSTAND WHO’S CALLING
As soon as you hear from the person who will conduct your phone interview, do a quick LinkedIn search to figure out what their role is at the company. Most often, it’s going to be a member of the recruiting team, which means it won’t be your potential boss or the hiring manager.
What that means: They’re going to want to ask you basic questions about your work history and tell you more about what the position entails. So, as you prepare your answers to potential job interview questions, you’ll likely avoid the more difficult interview questions that might come up in phase 2.
Some Phone Interview Questions You Might Get:
- Tell me a little bit about your work history.
- Why are you looking to leave your current company?
- What is the biggest challenge you have seen at your current position and how did you overcome it?
- Describe a substantial win at your last position.
- What was your favorite/least favorite element of your last position?
- How can you contribute to our company’s success?
- How well do you work by yourself, with a team?
- Why are you interested in coming to work for us?
- Why are you attracted to this specific position?
- What makes you the ideal candidate for this position?
- When can you come in for an in-person interview?
- (If you’re applying to a job in another city) Are you willing to relocate? If we don’t provide relocation assistance, are you still willing?
- What are your salary requirements?
- How far along are you in your search? Are you speaking to other companies?
- Tell me about [x] in your resume
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What questions do you have for me?
This last question is arguably the most important question. Make sure to come prepared with knowledge of the company and a few thoughtful questions.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #2: WRITE BACK ABOUT SCHEDULING ASAP – AND SPELLCHECK!
While it’s the phone prescreen that matters most, you still need to make a great impression in your email responding to the phone interview request. Make sure your reply is pristine and straightforward and that you get back in the same day, preferably within an hour or two. Also, double-check that the time you select is one that works with your schedule. (We’ve all double-booked before, especially when nervous.) And say thank you!
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #3: GO BACK TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION
Once you know you’re a potential candidate, pull the original job description up and read it carefully. Look for keywords that keep popping up and the clear skills they’re after. These are the elements you should try to touch on when you talk to your interviewer. We recommend even jotting them down on scratch paper as you read. It will help your memory.
Bonus Tip: By the way, this is a good time to suggest that you start saving all the links to job descriptions you’ve applied for in an Excel file so you can keep track of them. This is a great shortcut for situations like these, but it’s also a smart approach to the job search process. You can set up columns for things like “Date to Follow Up” and “Next Steps”.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #4: RESEARCH THE COMPANY ON LINKEDIN AND VIA THE COMPANY SITE
So that you have a great answer to the potential question, “Why are you interested in coming to work for us?”
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #5: PREPARE YOUR SALARY REQUIREMENTS
You should have a $5,000 range in mind. Prepare for it by researching via The Salary Project or one of the other great salary research tools out there. And keep it simple when asked. Just say, “I’m looking to make between $70,000 and $75,000.”
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #6: PLAN ON BEING SOMEWHERE QUIET
That does not mean your car. Ideally, it’s not in an office next to a construction site either. Book a meeting room at work or make sure your dog’s out with the dog walker while you’re on the phone. Just keep it as mellow as possible.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #7: USE HEADPHONES
Plugging in headphones helps cut down on background noise and will help the interviewer hear you better if their service is spotty.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #8: PULL UP YOUR RESUME AND LINKEDIN, PLUS THE JOB DESCRIPTION ON YOUR LAPTOP
Why not? Unlike an in-person interview, you can have all those resources right in front of you to reference as you talk.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #9: SLOW DOWN
Most of us talk too fast when we’re in a stressful speaking situation. That’s especially true when you aren’t able to track the other person’s visual cues. So, remind yourself to slow down. The Cut also recommends that you print out a photo for your interviewer beforehand to ease the discomfort of the faceless experience. (We haven’t tried this but it sounds savvy.)
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #10: PREPARE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK
Again, these don’t have to be too complicated since it’s a prescreen. But you might want to ask when they’re looking for someone to start or what the hiring process will be like, including next steps (if they don’t provide you with this information).
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #11: WHEN YOU ANSWER, ANSWER PROFESSIONALLY
You should say, “Hello, this is [your full name].” It makes it easy for them, but it’s also clear that you’re ready and waiting (and therefore prepared) for the interview. Here are the ideal opening remarks that will clearly convey you knew this phone interview was coming:
You: Hello, this is [Your Name].
Them: Hi, this is [Their Name] calling from [Company.]
You: Hi [Their First Name], thank you again for taking the time to speak with me today.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #12: LET THEM INTERRUPT YOU
Again, according to The Cut, there’s an easy way to make sure you’re giving them the right answers. “If you’ve started to give a long answer and the interviewer tries to jump back in, then there’s no point in trying to keep talking because they’re probably not paying attention … Let them interrupt and see what they really want to get at, and maybe you can start that story again at a different point.”
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #13: WRITE A FOLLOW-UP THANK YOU EMAIL
The Interview Thank You Rule (that’s an official term) is simple: every time you speak to someone new at a company during the job interview process, you should thank them for their time. So write a thank-you email to the recruiter and send it within a few hours of your phone interview.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #14: DON’T BE AFRAID TO COMMUNICATE IF YOU NEED TO RESCHEDULE
Obviously, it’s not ideal to ask for a change of interview time, so this is the last resort. But if you’re job searching, and it turns out that your boss wants you to attend a meeting during the pre-scheduled time, email the recruiter back. They understand that you’re juggling your search and your work, and they don’t want to make things uncomfortable for you.
PHONE INTERVIEW TIP #15: ASK IF THEY HAVE MORE QUESTIONS FOR YOU
Throughout the phone interview, you naturally answered and asked insightful questions. At the end of the phone call, your interviewer might ask you if you have any other questions. Respond in kind. Does the interview have any final questions for you? This lets the interviewer know that you are open to the challenge of more questions and that you are actively engaged in the interview process.