Make the right first impression by smashing that phone interview!

If you're hoping to land your dream job, you need to perfect every part of the interview process. The first contact you have with a potential employer may be over the phone. Yes, snappy phone interviews are becoming more and more common. They give employers a chance to speak to you, gauge your interest in the role, and decide if you're a good fit. In some cases, you may find employers hire candidates directly after the phone interview. 

Not sure how to do well on a phone interview? You've come to the right place. Highlighting your value to an employer in a quick call doesn't have to be hard. You simply need to prepare well and get the tone right. Within this guide, we will explain everything you need to know about this process and give you some handy phone interview tips. 

The popularity of phone interviews

The pandemic and surge in remote work have changed the business world forever. Since many people now work from home (or on a hybrid basis), it should come as no surprise that interviews are following suit. Once you've applied for a job, you might find that the first step is a call with the hiring manager to determine whether you have what it takes to fill it.

Phone interviews tend to be short and sweet - no longer than 15 minutes. These types of interviews are often used to screen the first batch of candidates. Let's say 100 candidates apply for a role and 17 have the right qualifications for the position. Chances are, the hiring manager doesn't have time to fully interview all of these people. However, they can spend a couple of days conducting quick phone interviews before moving onto the next stage. 

Phone interview tips to wow hiring managers

Preparing for that all-important call? When you've gone through the application process and been selected, your call will be scheduled in advance. That's good news for you - you'll have the opportunity to plan and prepare. Luckily, we've got you covered. Let's take a look at 26 simple phone interview tips that will help you to showcase your skills. 

1. Confirm the time of the interview

Before we get into the meat of these phone interview tips, there's some red tape to deal with. When you're offered the interview, you need to be clear on the time. Confirm this detail with the hiring manager. If the slot doesn't work for you, speak up and reschedule. 

2. Ask if you need to prepare anything 

When it comes to how to prepare for a phone interview, it pays dividends to ask. Shoot the hiring manager a quick email asking whether you need to focus on anything specific in advance. This works two-fold: it shows them that you're serious about the role and gives you a competitive edge. Take their advice on board when planning for the interview.

3. Prep your answers in advance

You don't have a crystal ball, so you simply cannot predict exactly what the hiring manager will ask you. However, researching some of the common phone interview questions in advance is a smart move. That way, you can briefly outline your answers. 

Take a look at our guide on how to answer tricky interview questions first. You may also want to take a look at questions that apply directly to your sector. The more comfortable you are with the type of things you will be asked, the more confident you will come across. 

4. Practice your answers

Practice makes perfect! Once you have prepared some brief answers, it's time to say them aloud. Ask a family member or trusted friend to go through them with you. Having a quick phone interview role-play will help you to identify any weak spots and get the answers down.

5. Research the company 

You should have researched the company when you applied for the job. However, now is the perfect time to dig a little deeper. Having a decent understanding of the business and its clients will help you when it comes to your phone interview. Check out the company website, its social media channels, and any places it has been mentioned in the press. 

6. Find out who will be calling you 

You know the date and the time of the call - what are you missing? You might want to ask about the hiring manager who will be calling you. That way, you'll know who to address when you answer the phone. Plus, you can research the individual too. Once you know the professional's name, you can take a look at them online and find out what their role is. 

7. Revisit the original advert 

When you're in the middle of preparing for a phone interview, it's important to refer back to the original job posting. It may have been a while since you sent off your application. If you've forgotten what the job description said, find it again and reread it. Focus on the specific job criteria and take notes that you can refer back to during the phone interview. 

8. Find a quiet place before the call 

Whenever you're preparing for phone interviews, it's smart to consider where you will be. Sure, this is a remote interview, but that doesn't mean you should have it in a busy cafe. Before your phone rings, find a place in your home that is both quiet and comfortable. 

9. Create a professional voicemail

You don't want to miss the call. But mistakes happen. You might pop to the toilet at the wrong time or fail to hear your phone. If that's the case, the recruiter will get your voicemail. Record a professional-sounding message so that you don't put them off. 

10. Charge your phone first 

Here's one of the most important phone screening interview tips. Charge your phone in advance! It might sound basic but you shouldn't overlook this crucial step. 

11. Limit any distractions 

Distractions are everywhere. You might have a small child, a cat that constantly meows in the background, or a flatmate who has no boundaries. Before the call, limit these distractions. Let your flatmate know that now is not a good time to chit-chat about her date, pop the cat in another room, and ask your partner to watch your child. Simple. 

12. Take a moment to unwind 

Inhale, exhale. According to research by JDP, 93 percent of Americans feel nervous before an interview. Before the phone call, take a moment to center yourself. You might find that taking a couple of deep breaths helps you to relax ahead of the interview. 

13. Answer the call yourself 

The moment your phone rings, you should be the one to answer the call. Don't let anyone else reach for the phone. Kick things off with a formal, “Hello, Jane Greene speaking.”

14. Practice some active listening 

Active listening means giving the speaker your full attention, not interrupting, and understanding what they mean. One of the most important phone interview tips you will get is to use this approach. Whenever the interviewer is speaking, stay quiet and listen to them. Don't jump the gun or interrupt them before they've finished their question.

15. Use professional language 

Regardless of the role you're applying for, the language that you use should be professional and formal. Sure, you're speaking on the phone but you're not having a catch-up with an old friend. Be selective about the words and phraseology you use. 

16. Smile when speaking 

Turn that frown upside down. The person at the other end of the line cannot see you; however, they may know if you're smiling. Research conducted at the University of Portsmouth found there are noticeable changes in a person's voice when they are smiling. Listeners can pick up on these “acoustical cues” whether they can see the speaker or not.  While you don't want to plaster a big, old fake smile on your face, having a relaxed smile may come across when you speak. As a candidate, you want to seem approachable and easy to work with. You can convey this vibe by having a warm, smiley tone of voice.

17. Grab a copy of your resume

Chances are, the interviewer will have a copy of your resume in front of them. You should do the same. They may use this document to form some of their questions, especially when it comes to your specific experience and work history. If you have a printed copy of your resume with you, you can use it as a talking point and refer back to it too. 

18. And have some notes too 

Remember we said you should research the company and your interviewer? Use the notes that you took back then to help inform your answers during the phone interview. The hiring manager may ask you the classic “What do you know about this company?”. If you want to look like the sharpest tool in the box, you'll have the answer in front of you.

19. Take a second before answering 

Before you answer each question, take a moment to think and process it. You don't win any extra points for speed here. When it comes to how to do well in a phone interview, one key tip is to take a breath before you speak. While you may know what you want to say, giving yourself a few seconds to gather your thoughts could make all the difference. 

20. Speak clearly and slowly 

Feeling anxious? You may speak faster than usual. However, when you're having an interview over the phone, some things can get lost in translation. You want to make things as easy as possible for the interviewer. For that reason, you should speak slowly and clearly. If they ask you to repeat anything you've said, be patient and do it calmly. 

21. Let the conversation flow 

You're not a robot. Make sure that the interviewer knows that by allowing the conversation to flow naturally. When you're speaking over the phone, it can be hard to build up a rapport with the other person. However, you can ask questions, speak naturally, and adopt an approachable tone during the phone interview. Try to be as conversational as possible.  

22. Keep a glass of water near you 

Nothing should interrupt your phone interview - least of all you having a coughing fit because your throat is too dry. Before the scheduled time, grab a glass of cold water and set it beside wherever you plan to sit. You can thank us later for this phone interview tip. 

23. Use the interviewer's formal name

If in doubt, use the standard phone interview etiquette and use the other person's full name. That means “Mr. Dean” or “Mrs. Lawson.” This is a formal setting, so you need to use formal language. Of course, if the interviewer turns around and says “Call me Steve,” you should follow their lead. But don't make any presumptions here. 

24. Ask some follow-up questions 

Whenever you're having an interview, you need to prepare your own questions to ask at the end. When the interviewer asks you if you want to ask anything, doing so shows that you are interested in the job. One of the best phone interview tips is to write these down in advance. That way, you won't stutter or stammer over this part of the process. 

25. Find out about the next steps 

Before the interviewer hangs up, you need to know a few things. Every hiring process is different and you should ask what the next steps are. For example, will you be invited to a face-to-face interview if you're successful? Will you have a Zoom call? Understanding what to expect will help to alleviate any stresses you have and put your mind at rest.

26. Send a thank you email afterwards

It's always smart to shoot the interviewer a quick thank you email. This is one of the simplest phone interview tips but it could help you to move to the next stage. The interviewer will see the email, meaning that you're fresh in their mind when they make their decision.

The takeaway 

Nailing your phone interview is easier than you might imagine. Don't be thrown by the fact that you can't see the interviewer. You need to apply the same level of professionalism to this type of interview as you would an in-person meeting. That means preparing in advance, doing some research, and making sure that you're ready. Armed with our expert phone interview tips, you should have no problem making the right first impression.

Preparing for an interview? Having an expert session with one of our coaches at TopInterview will give you a competitive edge. Our coaches offer custom career plans based around feedback that is tailored to you. You'll have the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and perfect your unique interview style. Clients who have used our coaches have gone on to interview at Google, Spotify, and more. 

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