Tips for Phone Interviews

Whether applying to a college, an internship, or a job, the interview process can make or break you. While a phone interview may be less nerve-wracking for some than an in-person meeting, it’s still important to let your talents and personality shine through. You can’t rely on body language and appearance, nor can you rely on subtle social cues to help guide you along. Preparedness is key if you want to succeed. No matter what you are interviewing for, here are 15 tips that will help you prepare and do the best you can during a phone interview:

1) Brainstorm answers to common interview questions.

  • What are some of your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What can you contribute to this school/position/company?
  • How would you handle conflict in this position?
  • How would someone close to you describe you?
  • Why are you interested in this school/position/company?
  • What are some of your goals for the future? Prepare yourself by really thinking about your reasons for being on this interview in the first place. Be honest. Write some of your answers out on paper to keep in front of you as a prompt in case you freeze up or get nervous. Use bullet-points and shorthand to make it easier to decipher quickly. These types of questions are designed for the interviewer to get to know you and your motives, and your answers will help to set you apart from other candidates. Also, keep up to date on current events; some interviewers might ask your take on something happening in the world to see if you can think on your toes.

    2) Highlight your qualifications, skills, and credentials.

    Any interviewer is going to want to know what skill-set you have that qualifies you for the program or job that you are applying for. Be prepared to talk about your past experience and accomplishments that led you to where you are today. Be truthful- interviewers will know if you are lying!

    3) Research the school or company you are applying to.

    Schools and businesses would like to know that you put some thought into your decision to apply there. Do some research. Learn about their philosophies, research your major or the program in-depth. This will show that you are truly interested in that specific place, and that it’s not just another in a long list of places you have applied to just on the hopes of getting in. You can easily find information via the school or company’s website. Add this info to your notes as well, just make sure you can discuss it without sounding like you are reading from a script, or worse, right from their website!

    4) Ask questions.

    Come up with some questions of your own for the interviewer. It’s hard to think of them on the spot, and most interviews always end by asking if you have any questions. Be prepared with 2-3 questions about the school, internship, program, or business that you are applying to. The internet doesn’t always have the answers to everything and by asking questions of your own, you will have the opportunity to show how much thought you put into your application and will show your eagerness to learn more and be a part of the team.

    5) Have a copy or your resume, cover letter, and/or application in front of you.

    Many of the questions you may be asked are going to be gleaned from your application packet. Make sure you have a copy of this in front of you during your phone interview so you can refer back to anything you might be unsure of, should it come up.

    6) Prepare a quiet and comfortable space.

    You don’t want to have this interview in a noisy coffee shop or in a car with traffic buzzing past. Find a quiet spot with no distractions or outside noises. Somewhere you can be comfortable and talk freely in a normal conversative tone and volume is key. Make sure the space is well-lit and grab yourself a glass of water to keep nearby. The advantage to having a phone interview instead of sitting in someone’s office with your anxiety and nerves running high is that you can prepare a space that YOU are comfortable in. Hopefully being comfortable and more relaxed in your own space will help to calm your nerves during the interview.

    7) Practice.

    Practice your interview with a peer or family member. You can prepare a list of random questions you think the interviewer might ask, or have them come up with their own. You can do this in person, but should try to do it over the phone as well, since that is the type of interview you will be doing. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it will help you to gain more confidence in your speaking ability and to rehearse possible answers you might have to give.

    8) Dress professionally.

    Even though you won’t be seen, you should treat this interview like any other interview. Dress, speak, and act like the professional you are. It’s ok to be more relaxed because you are in your own space, but remember your end goal with this interview and treat it with the importance it deserves.

    9) Stand up.

    It may sound silly since the interviewer won’t be able to see you, but standing up has its benefits. By standing up while you are talking, you will open up your diaphragm more, letting air move more freely through your lungs. Being able to breathe and speak without the constriction you get when you are sitting in a chair will not only help you sound better, but it will help your body to relax a little more as well. Try using a reliable, hands-free device. It might make you more comfortable to be able to pace the room and even to use your hands while speaking; whatever you need to do to make the setting more natural for you.

    10) Smile.

    The act of smiling while talking can make your voice sound vastly different than if you weren’t. Even though they can’t see you, a smile will show in your voice. It will make you seem more confident and friendlier and it might even help you to relax and speak with ease. Try not to be too formal with your conversation. It’s ok to be friendly and cordial and start with some small talk.

    11) Speak clearly and concisely.

    Breathe and try not to let your nerves take over. Speak at a normal, conversational volume, taking your time to be concise and let your words be heard and absorbed. Speaking too quickly can cause you to become tongue-tied or to make mistakes with words and the interviewer will not be able to understand you. Speaking too quietly will show a lack of confidence on top of the interviewer not being able to hear you. Use your practice runs to iron out how you will speak during the real deal.

    12) Take notes.

    Take notes during the interview as well. It is possible you may have a question about something the interviewer said. This will show that you were paying attention and will come in handy at the end when the floor is open for you to ask any questions that you may have.

    13) What’s next?

    It is perfectly acceptable to inquire about the next steps in the admissions/hiring process before your interview ends. Rather than waiting anxiously for days or even weeks, ask the interviewer what you can expect next, what their timeline is looking like, etc. You won’t always receive a rejection letter and sometimes the process can take longer than you would think. Eliminate a little of the “not-knowing” by asking these questions.

    14) Evaluate the interview.

    When the interview is done, take a moment to sit and think about it. Think about what was discussed, go over your notes, think about the things that you liked and that you think you excelled at, and think about some of the negative and reflect upon how you can do better for the next phone interview (because odds are, this won’t be your last!). It’s important that we always take the time to reflect upon our performances to help improve upon ourselves.

    15) Follow up.

    It's always important to thank someone after an interview, whether by phone, email, or a card. Within a day or two, send something their way to let them know you appreciated that they took the time to speak with you and highlight some of the points of the conversation/interview that stood out to you and reiterate your interest and excitement as you wait to hear from them.

    As long as you prepare and remain as calm as possible, your phone interview should go off without a hitch. Phone interviews (and interviews in general) don’t have to be a scary thing. The more you prepare, practice, and reflect upon what can be improved, the closer you are to becoming an interview pro!

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