Making the Most of a Phone Interview

On February 10, 2009, in job search, by Barbara Nixon

telephone dial by Leo Reynolds.In these days of travel budgets being slashed to bare bones, many companies are doing more phone interviews than ever. One of my PRCA 2330 students was just invited to a phone interview for an internship. She asked for some tips specific to phone interviews. Here’s some of my best advice:

  • Know the details of the interview. For example, do you call the interviewer? Or does he or she call you? Be prepared at least 15 minutes ahead of time, and be aware of time-zone differences.
  • If possible, make or take the call from a landline telephone, rather than a cell phone. You don’t want to have to worry about your call being dropped part-way through. If you must use a cell phone, be sure you’re in an area with exceptionally good coverage.
  • If the interviewer calls you on your cell phone, be sure that he or she hears a “regular” phone ringing, rather than a snippet of your favorite song. Call tones (or ring tones, depending on the lexicon of your phone provider) are sometimes confusing to callers who expect to hear just a ring.
  • Whether it’s a cell phone or a landline phone, check to see that the battery is fully charged before you begin to speak.
  • Do your best to be in a quiet place, away from chatty roommates, barking dogs, etc.
  • Prepare your interview area carefully. Be seated at a clean desk, and have a copy of your resume in front of you. Also have information about the company printed and available for you to refer to if you need it.
  • Have a cup of water with a straw nearby. It’s best to have no ice. 
  • No gum chewing. Though I love to chew gum, I know how awful it sounds to others at times.
  • Dress professionally, even though you know the interviewer cannot see you through the phone. We tend to act more professional when we appear more professional.
  • Avoid typing while talking, especially if you have long nails like I do. The sound of typing may make it sound like you’re not interested enough in the discussion to give it full attention.
  • Take notes as needed during the interview.
  • If the interview is done via Skype (or other) video chat, check your equipment with a friend ahead of time to ensure you know how to make or answer the video call. Make eye contact with the camera just as though you were talking face-to-face with the interviewer. Practice this with a friend! It feels quite awkward the first time you try it.
  • Immediately after the phone interview, send a short (yet professional) thank you e-mail to the interviewer. Then follow up that e-mail, the same day if possible, with a hand-written thank you note.

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