Make an amazing first impression by knowing what to expect and preparing for a phone interview.

Attention all job seekers: Your job interview process might well begin before you even get inside the company’s building. That’s because more and more organizations are conducting phone interviews as the first step in their hiring process. Knowing how to pass this hurdle can quite literally let you get your foot in the door for an in-person conversation.

Anyone in a job hunt should know how to prepare for a phone interview should it come their way. Here are some solid phone interview tips to help you handle it successfully.

Phone interview vs. in-person interview

While both interview scenarios deal with questions and answers, a phone interview is designed to help the hiring manager decide if you’re a strong enough candidate to merit an in-person interview. This is where many recruiters first start screening and weeding out candidates.

The good news is that because the interviewer can’t see you, you can have your notes right in front of you to review when answering questions. Just be sure you don’t sound like you’re reading them when answering the interviewer’s questions.

Since the interviewer can’t see you, they’re listening not only to your responses but also to the tone of your voice, your speaking style, and your language choices. In other words, they are listening for how professional you sound on the phone. It’s sort of like the blind audition on “The Voice.” The four celebrity singers are deciding who they want based on what they hear, not on what they see. So, if you’re tempted to take a phone interview lightly — don’t.

You need to be just as prepared for this interview as you would be for one that is face-to-face and resonate that you’re smart, confident, and the right person for the job.

Preparing for a phone interview: before

You start preparing for a phone interview by doing many of the same things you do for an in-person interview:

  • Research the company by checking their website, LinkedIn page, and other social media sites. Talk to any contacts that work there to get some inside information.

  • Learn as much as you can about their markets, sales strategies, and key figures. You need to be ready and able to answer the question “What do you know about us?”

  • Prepare relevant questions to ask the interviewer. This can make or break a phone interview, so make sure you pick questions that show you are the ideal candidate for the job.

Next is the preparation that’s specifically for during the phone interview.

Phone interview preparation: during

This is a little more involved, but don’t let it intimidate you. Take it step by step.

  • First, set up a scheduled time for the call that works for both you and the interviewer.

  • Create notes from your research to refer to during the call, if necessary.

  • Have your resume within reach to easily provide any experience related to the open position, as well as your accomplishments and other relevant information. Highlight those parts so they’re easier to spot.

  • Before the call, choose a comfortable, quiet environment where you won’t be interrupted and there’s no background noise. Also, it’s better if this is not done where you work.

  • If you’ll be talking on a landline, turn your cell phone off and silence any notification sounds that come from your computer.

  • If you’re using your cell phone, make sure it has enough charge to get through the call.

  • Get a pen and paper to take notes. Alternatively, you can use a non-clicking keyboard that won’t disturb or distract the interviewer.

  • Have some water nearby.

  • Consider using a headset to keep your hands free for note-taking, etc. Phone interviews can go as long as an hour, and you don’t want to be holding the phone between your neck and shoulder for all that time.

  • Practice, especially if you haven’t done a phone interview in a while — or ever. Get some commonly asked interview questions that you can review with a friend or even a former co-worker. Practicing your answers often makes you sound (and feel) less nervous during the actual interview.

  • Jennifer Dziura, the founder and writer of the feminist work column Bullish, states on The Cut website, “Before the call, ask yourself: What are the top three things you want your interviewer to know about you?” Rehearse what you’ll say and “know you’re going to express those three things no matter what.”

  • Dziura also suggests thinking about the stories you want to tell about yourself, “experiences that happened to you, projects that you spearheaded in your last job, things that you really want to get across.”

  • Lastly, ask questions about the interviewer to learn a little more about the company culture, working conditions, and employee attitude. (Obviously, this will only work if your interviewer is a company employee.) Try questions like: How long have you been with the company? How did you get the job? What do you like most about working there?

If by the end of the call you know you want the job, end on a positive note saying something like “Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. From what I’ve heard, I believe I’m a good fit for this role and I’m very interested in moving forward. What’s the next step from here?”

And of course, send a thank-you email just as you would for a face-to-face interview.

Knowing both how to prepare for a phone interview and what to expect in a phone interview gives you the opportunity to make an amazing first impression, continue on to the next step in the process, and eventually get that great new job.

Not sure if you’re acing your interview or stumbling through it? Maybe it’s time to brush up on those skills with a professional interview coach from TopInterview.

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