How to Ace a Phone Interview

You CV was top-notch, and you’ve caught a potential employer’s attention. Now they want to get to know you better. But thanks to Covid-19, the first step in the interview process is now a phone interview. So what do you need to do, and know, to ace a phone interview? Here are our top tips: 

  1. Do your homework 
  2. Create a comfortable environment 
  3. Have the job description plus your CV and cover letter in front of you 
  4. Answer the phone 
  5. Slow Down 
  6. Listen 
  7. Prepare some questions to ask
  8. Take advantage of being unseen 
  9. End on a positive note

Do your homework 

As you would for an in-person interview, thoroughly research the company. Expect some variation on the question, “what do you know about us?” If you don’t demonstrate some research-level into the company, the interview might be over before you think. One of the nice things about a phone interview is that you can have your notes/cheat sheet in front of you. 

Create a comfortable environment 

As we said in How to Rock a Video Interview, know your background. Screaming kids, traffic/background noises & TVs/radio are very distracting. Find a quiet space where you’ll be comfortable and will be able to talk. On that note, make sure you aren’t in any high traffic spots in your home; the last thing you want is for a partner, parent or friend to start asking you questions in the middle of a call.

If you live somewhere with spotty signal, it might be better to schedule a landline call. Remember that having your phone on speaker can distort your voice. 

Have the job description plus your CV and cover letter in front of you 

Understanding what the employer is looking for and what your responsibilities will be can help you tailor your answers. An interviewer might refer to something on your CV or cover letter, and when this happens to us, suddenly you can’t remember anything that was on it. Having a copy of your application nearby can help you avoid a mind wipe. 

Other items you might want to have nearby are: 

  • A drink
  • A notepad and pen/pencil
  • A charger (you don’t want to drop the call because your phone dies) 
  • Headphones 

Answer the phone 

When meeting an interviewer in person, you are able to give a firm handshake, a smile and start with a pleasant greeting. On the phone, you need to make a great first impression without body language. We had one Superstar say “It’s weird I can’t shake your hand” which was a great way to break the ice

This might sound obvious, but make sure you answer the phone and not a friend, roommate or family member. When you answer the phone, do so professionally (no “what’s up, dude?”) and make sure you show your enthusiasm for the job with both the tone of your voice and your words.  (example: “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me”). Your tone should stay upbeat and friendly during the call.  

Slow Down 

Speaking too fast makes you sound nervous. Or, if you have a strong accent talking quickly can make it challenging to understand you. 

Listen 

It’s not just a good Beyonce song! Half (or more) of good communication is listening. 

If you don’t listen carefully and end up answering the ‘wrong’ questions, you are conveying you’re a bad listener and could be a bad hire as bad listeners tend not to follow directions well. As with an exam, it’s important to answer the question you’re asked. Be sure that the interviewer has finished their question or sentence before you start answering. And, don’t take 10 minutes to answer a question – remember the 3 B’s. Be Brief, Be Brilliant, Be Gone 

Prepare some questions to ask

As with any interview, you should have some questions ready to ask the interviewer. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Can you tell me about a typical day (in this role) 
  • What sort of training is involved?
  • What is your favourite thing about working for this company? 
  • Who would I be reporting to? (if not already mentioned) 
  • Have I answered all your questions? 

Take advantage of being unseen 

There are many benefits to a phone interview, mainly that the interviewer can’t see you. This means you can wear comfortable clothes, have notes, questions, etc., in front of you.

End on a positive note

Make sure you thank them for their time and ask about possible next steps or when you can expect to hear back from them. Another nice touch is to send a short thank-you note/email a few hours after the call. This confirms your interest in the role and desire to take things to the next step. 

In some ways, being unseen during a phone interview takes some of the pressure off – you don’t have to be aware of your posture, maintaining eye contact or facial expressions. That said, you should still take a phone interview as seriously as you would an in-person interview. This is your chance to make a great first impression!