How to Prepare Yourself for a Telephone Interview

Al Jolson on the PhoneAhh, the quick-death elimination round of the phone interview. It’s your one chance to get your foot in the door and progress to the next step in discussions with your prospective employer. But no pressure.

Fortunately, blogger Marci Alboher has a few tips on how to ace phone interviews. Here are some highlights, along with a few thoughts of my own.

  • Be prepared: Be as ready as you would be for an in-person interview. Research the company, and have a list of intelligent questions ready for the “do you have any questions for us” phase.
  • Find a quiet and private place for the call: This one seems obvious, but I’ve interviewed candidates doing everything from driving to what sounded like an excursion to the zoo. So find a nice quiet place for the call. If you have to do the interview while still at your current employer, consider the sanctity of your car.
  • Don’t do anything else: Ever spaced off while reading e-mail during a conference call? The same thing can happen during a phone interview. Focus, focus, focus.
  • Keep notes and documents handy: This is a great tip. In a phone interview, you can have all of your material fanned out all around you. Resume, questions, canned answers.
  • Practice: Having a friend do a faux interview with you is a great way to prepare. The more comfortable you can be with the interview environment, the more polished and natural you’ll sound during the real thing.
  • Don’t worry about brief silences: You’ll often see master politicians take a pause before answering a question. That’s because they’re mentally constructing the most cogent and appropriate response. Alboher suggests you do the same. Don’t worry about a pause here or there, just make sure you follow it up with a thoughtful response.

First published June 8, 2009