What's the Best Way to Prepare for a Phone Interview?

In today’s competitive job market many people are asking what is the best way to prepare for a phone interview? Yes, the phone interview now ranks in a top spot right along with an in-person interview. Job seekers have had to make this adjustment as employers look to streamline the process in the initial vetting of a candidate. So being well prepared for this all important phone call can eventually land the job.

The best way to prepare for a phone interview is to treat it as a high priority just like you would if face-to-face. One of the biggest mistakes job candidates can make is to shrug off a phone interview and not take it seriously. According to Glassdoor, in the most recent HR and Recruitment report, companies on average receive 250 applications for every job opening. However, according to Glassdoor only about 2-percent of candidates will be interviewed for an open position. Those odds alone make it vital for job seekers to find the best way to prepare for a phone interview.

There are a number of things job candidates can do before the call is made to help highlight their skills and make a good impression during the interview. We will cover phone interview tips and additional career advice to ensure a successful hiring process.

Understand A Phone Interview

Great! You are on the short list of applicants to be contacted for an interview. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back a bit for the accomplishment. Remember most people don’t make the initial cut. So now what’s next? Well, it’s time to get ready for the call. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can take it easy just because it’s a phone interview. It’s important to treat it as an in-person interview.

Companies use the phone interview to decide who will be invited for an in-person interview to meet the hiring manager and other key decision makers. So any misstep by the applicant can hinder moving to the next level in the hiring process. Understand that your fellow applicants are just as qualified and eager to interview well. You will have to bring your A-game during the phone interview to stand out from the crowd. Here is where you talk about your skills and experience that will be an asset to the company.

The initial phase during the phone call is designed to see if you will be a good fit for the company and the team looking to fill an opening. In addition, the interviewer may ask a variety of questions to get to know you a little better, to see how you respond and whether you can think on your feet. The company has prepared for this process, it’s not just a frivolous waste of time to them, so you should not treat it as such.

Best Way to Prepare for A Phone Interview: Research

Perhaps one of the best things job applicants can do to prepare for a phone interview is to research the company. Although job hunting can seem monotonous as you navigate online applications and uploading resumes, once an interview is scheduled you will need to shift gears to prepare by researching the company.

Take a look at the company, find out what it is they do; when the company was founded; where the headquarters is located; and if there are other locations around the country. Also get an idea of where the company ranks in the industry. This is all valuable information to know which may offer insight into the type of questions you’ll be asked or help spark a few things you want to inquire about during the interview.

Hint…hint…big hint here! If you show that you dedicated time to research the company beyond the information in a quick Google search, you will score a lot of points during the interview. Hiring managers like to know that candidates take the job and the interview seriously and have shown interest to learn more.

Come up with a list of questions you would like to ask about the company. For instance, if they are planning to expand in a specific area or ways they are exploring to diversify their portfolio? Leverage the question with an opportunity to offer a suggestion about something, or if your experience lends to their future plans. Again, it’s one more way to shine above the others during the interview.

Phone Etiquette Tips

In preparing for a phone interview, understand a few etiquette tips to make a good impression. Some job candidates are offended by a phone interview. However, what they are failing to recognize is that they are indeed on a short list. Keep this in mind, phone interviews are only granted to a few applicants for a job and even fewer make it from the phone to a face-to-face interview.

Phone etiquette tips include:

  1. Answer the phone in a professional manner.
  2. Remember to speak clearly and concisely.
  3. Refrain from eating, chewing gum or drinking during the interview. The only exception is to have a small glass of water nearby in case your mouth gets dry.
  4. Listen, listen, listen to what the interviewer is saying as they ask questions.
  5. Make sure you are focused during the phone call and not multitasking.
  6. Eliminate any background noise in the room.
  7. Do not use vulgar language.

Now let’s go in-depth regarding a few of the tips on the list. First, how you answer the telephone is critical; it’s the first impression of the interview. And yes, the person conducting the interview is taking note. If someone answers the phone rudely, unprofessional or in a casual manner the interviewer may think they have the wrong person or even worse, you are not a good fit for the job or the company. Eliminate both thoughts right away. Use a clear, professional voice in answering the phone. The interviewer will confirm the time of the call beforehand so be ready for the call.

And while it may seem obvious, it bears pointing out again to emphasize the importance of not eating, chewing gum, drinking or multitasking during the phone interview. This is serious business folks so treat it in that manner.

Phone Interview Pros and ConsPhone Interview Pros & Cons

As we said earlier, some candidates may view a phone interview as an insult, thinking the company is not really serious if they didn’t schedule to meet you in person. But for others, it’s time to celebrate having survived the first round of cuts and the company wants to talk to you. Any conversation regarding an open position can present pros and cons, especially when navigating the best way to prepare for a phone interview.

Pros of Phone Interview includes:

  1. Candidate able to be in their own familiar space.
  2. Don’t have to worry about traffic and at the interview location on time.
  3. Interviewer may not notice your nervous demeanor.
  4. Usually scheduled for a specific time frame; so unlikely to run over.
  5. Don’t have to be anxious about meeting decision makers in person.

Cons of Phone Interview includes:

  1. Unable to read body language of interviewer.
  2. Phone connection may not be clear which can present challenge in communication.
  3. An interview prior could run over so you will have to wait.
  4. Feeling rushed during the interview process.

Some candidates are excited about phone interviews because it means they can remain at home or a quiet, familiar location and not have to worry about dressing to impress. The interviewer and candidate may be at a slight disadvantage because they are not able to see each other so the conversation has to compensate for that missing connection.

In some cases, video conferencing may be scheduled as well to facilitate the call. This type of interview can help bridge the gap a bit since each party can see each other, but still not in the same room.

Interview Attire

The general rule of thumb when selecting attire for an interview is to dress for the part. In professional settings where business casual is the norm, it is still expected for candidates to wear business attire. However, the rules of the game change a bit when it comes to attire and the best way to prepare for a phone interview.

Just in case your wardrobe for the call consists of either pajamas or day-old sweats, it’s time to change your plan and the quicker the better. Lounging around in your pajamas may sound like a cool idea, but just remember you may be too relaxed and in comfort mode during the interview will sound like it. So why worry about it since they can’t see you anyway? The biggest reason is that you want to come across serious, not like someone who just rolled out of bed.

Looking to prepare your phone interview can include what you’ll wear. Yes, it matters and can help you evoke a prepared and confident during the call. Consider a pair of casual slacks and shirt to help you get into a more professional mode. It’s easy to become laidback as if chatting with a friend. However, this is not the time. You are talking to the person who can potentially hire you, so get dressed. Don’t take the lazy way out and just wear whatever. The effort will be worth it when you come across during the interview as engaged, knowledgeable and ready to go to work.

The goal is to get the job right? So why would you slack on what you wear even for a phone interview? Realize that everything you do can make or break your chances of being hired.

Phone ConversationPhone Conversation

One thing that job candidates don’t realize is how much is weighing on the phone interview. They give little thought to the actual conversation and how they will come across. There are a few things to remember when thinking about the phone conversation.

First impressions matter, so how you answer the phone will factor into your overall conversation. It might be a good idea to practice answering the telephone to ensure a consistent professional tone.

Be mindful and remember to speak clear and concise. The interviewer should not have to figure out what you are saying or wade through a convoluted response. If your normal speaking cadence is slow, practice speeding up just a bit so it does not appear you are lagging as if thinking on your feet. In reverse, if you talk too fast, take a deep breath and slow down a beat. Candidates want the interviewer to hear and understand them, so help them out by adjusting your speaking speed.

Answer the question, period. The interviewer will have a list of questions they want direct answers to. They are not looking for you to showboat your way through. So answer the question.

Checklist to Prepare for a Phone Interview

Trying to keep up with all the moving parts of job interview questions can be tough. There comes a time when using a checklist, either digital or handwritten, can be a lifesaver. However, what goes on the list is up to you, there is no right or wrong way, just make sure to cover the basics and the important stuff.

The phone interview checklist can include:

  1. Confirm the interview date, time and name of person calling.
  2. Print your resume, cover letter and job description.
  3. Research the company.
  4. Prepare for the type of questions the interviewer may ask you.
  5. List your strengths and skill set to have at ready reference.
  6. Create a short list of questions you want to ask during the interview.
  7. Remember to write a “thank you” to the interviewer.

The checklist will help you stay focused as the designated time of the interview approaches. While this is just a sample of what your checklist can include, the main objective will be to gather everything you need to bring with you to the interview. Yes, even a phone interview. You need to be just as prepared as if sitting across from the interviewer in an office setting.

Each job application will likely require you to tailor your resume to the position. It sounds like a lot of work but once you get into the swing of things, making the adjustments will be quick work. In an effort to stay organized the best way to prepare for a phone interview is to have a copy of the resume you submitted along with the actual job description. Having both documents at your fingertips will allow you to point out something specific from the job description and to highlight a skillset or experience from your resume.

Dos and Do Nots for Phone InterviewsDos & Don’ts for Phone Interview

While some of the dos and don’ts may seem a little obvious, it is necessary to point them out to make sure everyone is on the same page of the best way to prepare for phone interview. You would be surprised what still trips people up.

The List of Things to Do:

  1. Do arrive early for the interview.

Just because it’s a phone interview, be ready 15 minutes early so you will not sound out of breath or distracted when answering the call.

  1. Do find a quiet space.

There is nothing more distracting than a lot of background noise when you are trying to focus during an interview. Find a quiet space without any distractions.

  1. Do listen carefully.

As the interviewer begins to conduct the interview, make sure to listen carefully before responding. If you don’t understand, ask them to repeat the question.

  1. Do speak clearly.

The interviewer will be listening closely to your responses so speak clear to make sure they understand you.

  1. Do answer the question.

Be direct in your response to questions from the interviewer. An answer buried in a long-winded response may get lost. Just answer the question.

  1. Do highlight your skills.

This is the time to talk about yourself! Let the interviewer know what you bring to the table. They selected you for a phone interview so now you need to seal the deal to get the job.

We realize interviews, whether face-to-face or over the phone, can be stressful. You may be worried about how to respond to certain questions, worried about if you have enough experience to beat out other applicants. While it’s all normal, here is a list of things to avoid during an interview.

List of Interview Don’ts:

  1. Don’t forget your resume.

Make sure to have a copy of your submitted resume at your fingertips to refer to during the interview.

  1. Don’t discuss money.

Unless the interviewer brings up the subject, it’s best to avoid talking about salary at this time.

  1. Don’t forget to use a professional tone.

It can be tempting to use a casual tone during a phone interview. But the best rule of thumb is to use a professional tone throughout so the interviewer knows you are serious.

  1. Don’t be distracted.

All your attention needs to be directed to the phone interview and not distracted about what’s going on around you. You will come across as distracted and uninterested in the job.

Highlight Your Skills & Experience

The perfect time to highlight your skills and experience is during the interview. Your well-written resume can only showcase so much information. However, during the interview as you are responding to questions, try to find a way to highlight your skill set and relevant experience for the job. This is not the time to be shy or at a loss for words, talk about yourself. How do you envision getting the job if you can’t sell yourself?

While this is not the same as bragging on yourself, it is more about pointing out your knowledge of certain software programs or procedures that the job will require. The things you point out are your selling points to rank you higher than other candidates.

Most applicants have a wealth of experience that will not all fit on a resume. Be prepared to mention a few items you think are important to give the interviewer a better indication of your capabilities. If the position will be a different career path for you, it’s especially important to highlight your transferable skills and why you applied for the job. The interviewer will be listening for key points to see if you can handle the job. Remember, they saw something on your resume to even schedule a phone interview.

Today, many young professionals have raised the bar in the job search arena by creating a personally branded site to market themselves. The site is much more in-depth than a resume and allows candidates a place to shine. Even if you included the site link on your resume, find a way to subtly mention it during the phone interview. In case the hiring team overlooked the site when screening applicants, this is a chance to view it.

Social MediaSocial Media & Etc.

When it comes to any type of interview, realize that technology makes it easier for companies to learn a lot about a candidate. It’s a way to get an idea of who you prior to the phone interview. They want to see what type of person you are and if the resume fits the person.

One simple way to prepare ahead of an interview is to check your social media profiles across active platforms. Regardless of whether it’s a phone interview or in person, job candidates should be careful about their presence on social media. Take time to check your accounts even before submitting an application. It’s almost too prior to a phone interview or immediately after.

Tip: Keep it clean and professional on social media.

You don’t want a potential employer to see your negative posts about your current company or anything negative in general. Go through and clean up your accounts, delete them if necessary or make your social presence ultra-private. You may only share industry or positive information on LinkedIn, however, your IG (short for Instagram) account is another story altogether.

Overlooking your behavior on social media that may not be in the best light can become a deal breaker if you are on the short list for a job. Don’t give them a reason not to select you for the position. This is an important step, even if just for a phone interview because your professional social presence may get you a second interview in person while the same is not extended to a competing candidate.

The 24-Hour Countdown

Your phone interview is set for 24 hours from now and the anxiety has kicked in. There is no need to panic. While a few loose ends may remain prior to the call, time is on your side to get everything done with ease. Indeed, the best way to prepare for a phone interview is to plan ahead, it’s valuable time.

Make the final list of questions you plan to ask so there are no surprises at the last minute. Also, do a couple of practice runs on a handful of basic questions you will likely be asked. This will help to focus your responses during the interview and not linger on.

This is also a good time to confirm the time of the phone interview and exactly who you will be speaking to. If an appoint has to be rescheduled, the interviewer will advise. Additionally, review the space where you plan to be during the interview so any distractions can be relocated and that it’s quiet and void of potential interruptions.

Test the device you plan to use for the phone call. You may decide that a set of headphones will be more comfortable than holding a phone to your ear or talking via a speaker. It’s details such as this that are important to have a handle on ahead of time in case a backup plan needs to be put in place.

Time to figure out what to wear for the interview. Avoid the too big T-shirt and gym shorts no matter how comfy they make you. Remember this is a position you are interested in, you applied for it, made it to the first round of interviews and need to shine. You may not sound professional while lounging on the couch wearing sweats watching television. Step it up!

Day of the Phone InterviewDay of the Phone Interview

The big day for the important phone interview has arrived. No worries, you’ve got this! All the work is done and everything is in place and ready for the phone to ring. If you sound a bit hesitant or stressed in response, perhaps it’s just nerves kicking in. Take a deep breath and slowly release it. Ok, now take another deep breath and again slowly release it. Feel better after calming down a bit? Good job!

Now focus on the task at hand; a successful phone interview for your next position. Take a moment to do a final check of everything you need to have in place for the call. Don’t just do a mental check to remember if documents are in place, go and look to verify. Things can happen and you had good intentions to print the documents and secure for the interview. If it slipped your mind, this is the time for making sure. Also, include the list of questions you want to ask the interviewer if time permits. Try to have your top question listed first so you are not fumbling and seem unprepared.

A good idea is to do a practice run of your introduction. It sounds different in your head, but when you speak aloud it may not come out as smooth. Work on the tough spots.

If your schedule is busy in the hours leading up to the interview, be sure to buffer about 30 minutes between your last appointment before the call. This will give you a few moments to catch your breath, gather your thoughts and focus on the interview. Taking time to execute your preparation plan eliminates the need to do a mad dash to get ready with only seconds to spare. Get ready, once the phone rings, it’s showtime.

Career AdviceCareer Advice

Applying for a job does not have to be a stressful process. The largest part of the journey is navigating the steps to prepare for the interview. It’s great to seek career advice and it all sounds good in theory on the surface. However, when it comes down to the details of doing the work, that’s where a lot of people tank, thinking they can manage on their own. Why set yourself up for a headache and potentially not being offered the job?

Good career advice, like the best way to job search by degree, is invaluable, especially when trying to find the best way to prepare for a phone interview. The more time you dedicate to putting your best foot forward in the interview, the better your performance.

Most job candidates make the mistake of just thinking the phone interview is just a casual session to schedule a face-to-face meeting. Things have changed in the job market and companies are working hard to screen applicants early in the process. So those who make it an in-person interview can be pretty certain they are on the very short list. So don’t brush off the phone interview, but rather treat it with a high level of importance.

Think ahead to cover all of the bases when it comes to the interview process. It’s the only chance you may have to take control and give it your best shot. The best way to prepare for a phone interview includes a variety of tips and strategies to help you get the job. Some of the information may not relate to everyone if it’s not something you need to brush up on. However, for others, it may be just the missing link to help you pull it all together for a great interview. In the end, it is up to each individual candidate how much advice they take to reach their goals.


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