2018 Update: We still stand by these tips on how to do well in a telephone interview — but you may also want to check out our latest post with video interview tips for your online job interview!
Telephone interviews can be just as trying as an in-person interview — but how do you sound and act your best over the telephone? Reader J just had her first phone interview, and wonders if she can do better, so we thought we’d discuss. Ladies, what are your thoughts on how to do well in a telephone interview? Here’s J’s question:
I had my first telephone interview last week (previously, I’ve interviewed for summer positions, and taken part I in OCIs and other much more structured hiring processes and only had in-person interviews) and I wasn’t sure what to expect and how to prepare. I looked through your posts on interviewing, but didn’t find anything dedicated to talking about telephone interviews. I think it might be a useful topic to discuss (and get the hive’s input on) – in particular, how to know what kind of telephone interview to expect (the check-she’s-not-crazy with a low-level recruiter/firm HR person, the check-she’s-qualified with higher-level recruiter/firm hiring committee person, and the we-don’t-want-to-fly-you-across-the-country-for-an-in-person-interview-yet with the employer), how to prepare for different telephone interviews, and any telephone interview etiquette or tips.
Interesting! I think more and more companies are doing phone interviews as an initial step, so we should definitely talk about them. (We have talked about Skype interviews, but those makeup tips seem a bit . . . irrelevant for a phone interview.) Here are my thoughts, but I’m curious what the readers have to say.
- Treat this as a “gatekeeper” interview. Reader J seems to want to suss out how important the person on the other end of the phone is, perhaps so she knows how seriously to take the call. Here’s my suggestion: it doesn’t matter who’s at the other end of the phone. Whoever it is, they’re the one who says “yes, let’s bring her in for Round 2.” So plan to bring your full game, and act as if you’re talking to the CEO, owner, BigWig partner, or whoever else. If you work in a niche with special jargon, go ahead and use the jargon — I think you can presume that the interviewer will be familiar with it, and if not, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Similarly, you may have specific questions of the company to see if you even want to get to Round 2 — questions about lifestyle, benefits, the job position, etc. If anything is a dealbreaker for you, ask it on this call; if the interviewer can’t answer it ask for a follow-up call.
- Clear your calendar, and go to a very quiet place. If you’re not specifically told how much time to expect, I would clear 60 or 90 minutes of your time. Go to a very quiet place — your office, a conference room, your home.
- Lower your voice. This may be just my personal cross to bear, but I have a fairly high-pitched, breathy voice over the phone unless I’m consciously thinking to myself, “lower your voice.” (I’m that person who records my outgoing voice message 15 times trying to get the pitch and the message correctly.)
- Smile. Nope, they can’t see you — but I guarantee they’ll hear it in your voice. Plus, you’ll sound more confident.
- Clear your desk and have your resume and a clear notepad in front of you. I like to take notes when I’m on an important phone call — primarily just to help me focus and to keep me from fiddling on the computer. Some people do advise standing for telephone interviews.
- Know everything. Know your resume and any forgettable facts from your work history (metrics, jargon, dates, promotions, etc.). Know the job listing. Know the company. If you can, know the interviewer (Google as soon as you find out their name, or go to their page on the company website).
Readers, what are your best tips for how to do well for a telephone interview? Have you had more of them in recent years?