More and more of my clients are telling me that their first interview is a phone interview. Today, it is common to participate in a phone interview as a first step. Phone interviews are designed to weed out candidates who are not a good fit for the company, in spite of their qualifications. Taking the time to understand the phone interview process and following a few common sense tips can help make your phone interview successful. Remember, that in order to land the all-important in person interview, your first hurdle is the phone interview.

Phone interviews should be thought of as any other interview. This means preparing for a phone interview just as you would a ‘real’ interview. Researching the company to which you have applied, developing a list of thought provoking questions, being well rested and eating prior to the interview are all important steps–hint: don’t eat anything sugary before the interview or you might be likely to “crash” 20 minutes into your conversation–trust me on this one.  You may even want your coffee handy as it will give you the boost you need, and keep you feeling and sounding alert. The phone interview is a unique opportunity to sell yourself using just your words. Be sure to have prepared responses to typical interview questions and be prepared to put your best ‘voice’ forward.
Just like an in-person interview has etiquette rules that must be followed, so does a phone interview. Being mindful of the etiquette of phone interviews is critical for successfully completing the stage of the interview process.

  1. Interview at home: This is the best way to ensure you have a quiet environment for the interview. Participating in a phone interview while driving, while at a restaurant or another noisy environment is a sure way to appear distracted and disinterested. Stay at home for your interview and make sure the house is peaceful. Stay in one spot to avoid sounding like you are walking or breathless. If sitting, sit straight up.
  2. Make adequate plans: Be sure to plan for the interview. If you have children, arrange for a caregiver during the interview process. Allow for adequate time before scheduling other interviews or appointments. Interruptions are in poor form so be sure to plan adequately in order to avoid them. Tell friends and family you will be interviewing at that time and NOT to call or stop by.
  3. Your voice matters: Because phone interviews are solely auditory, your voice matters. Be sure to focus not only on being articulate and intelligent but also on showing enthusiasm and excitement. As always, take your time when answering, but avoid sounding bored or slow.
  4. Be relevant: Interviews conducted over the phone have one major downfall for the applicant: it is easy to become complacent or to get off topic. Be sure to focus your answers on relevant information and experience. Avoid veering off topic or becoming too personal. Professionalism and relevance are critical for success.
  5. Smile. How many times have you talked to someone who was smiling on the other end of the phone? You can literally feel the smile. Smiling projects self-confidence and a cheery disposition.

If you prepare for a phone interview just like any other interview, the process becomes simplified. Being aware of what the interviewer is looking for, and tailoring your responses and answers to these needs is equally important.