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

Comments

  1. BY Paul says:

    I have recently gone through two phone interviews, with two companies. The feedback I received was that I did very well. I am awaiting a start date on a project from one of them and had to turn-down the other one.
    Being prepared with questions and answers was definitely helpful. The hardest part is to sound comfortable and knowledgeable, but not ‘cocky’ or over-confident, that comes across the phone wrong. Remember to smile, they will ‘hear’ that in your voice. I actually like the phone interview, due in part that I am a pacer, which is difficult to do in an office interview. I also like that I can have notes, research materials and my resume’ in front of me, on the phone. I do carry notes into an office interview, too, it helps me ‘be prepared’ and let’s the interviewer know I am ready for this.
    I have been interviewing a lot recently and have found that some companies still aren’t that proficient at the process and others have a good system. Follow-up is still key to getting the job. It is still talked about, but in today’s market there are many qualified applicants applying for each position and the company can only choose one for each open position, you must do what you can to stand-out and be noticed or you will be waiting for the next opening.

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