Dialing In: Phone Interview Tips for Making the Right Impression

Phone interviews are common for first-round screening of job candidates. They allow an employer to quickly get a feel for who you are and how you communicate.

Since a phone call will likely be your first chance to make a killer impression, you have to take it seriously and do the prep work. Here’s how:

Master the basics

Don’t start an interview — in person or via phone or video — without doing some preparation. Consult guides to interview basics prior to jumping on a call. Your resume should be within arm’s reach to avoid any nerve-induced stumbling over your history. You should have thorough knowledge of your potential employer and a snappy elevator pitch for why you’re a great fit. Most importantly, make a connection. You’re a human being, not just a voice at the end of the line, so find a commonality with your interviewer and engage in genuine small talk before you get down to the nitty gritty.

Dress for success

The way you dress affects you psychologically: Clothing choice can make a difference in how we’re perceived and, just as importantly, in how we perceive ourselves. Does that mean busting out a business suit for a phone interview? Probably not, but changing the PJs and flip-flops for khakis isn’t a bad idea before you dial in.

Set the scene

You need a quiet, distraction-free space for a phone interview. That may mean putting your dog in the yard for awhile or asking your mother to attend to your 3-year-old for the afternoon. Turn off your call waiting. Close your windows. Listen for unexpected noises and irritations before the call starts. Calling from a landline minimizes the chances of echoes, bad reception and the dreaded dropped call.

Mind your voice

Since your interviewer won’t be able to see you, pay particular attention to your voice. Speak clearly, take your time and don’t forget to smile — facial expressions can be detected in the tone of your voice. Watch how long you talk. It’s appropriate to completely answer a question, but there’s a difference between elaboration and rambling. Be enthusiastic but genuine; your verbal cues tell the interviewer how interested you are in the position.

You’re also more likely to focus during a phone interview if you stand up. Being upright opens your diaphragm, making your voice project and helping your breathing remain steady.

Give yourself time

Most phone interviews last 15 or 20 minutes. Unless you’re told to expect a longer call, you should allow at least 30 minutes for the conversation. You don’t want to cut the call short or deal with distractions if you go over the projected time. Longer is, after all, probably better.

End on a high note

Gratitude is appreciated. At the call’s end, thank the interviewer for his or her time. Reiterate your desire to pursue the position, and make it clear that you’re looking forward to the next step.

Do you have additional ideas about phone interview etiquette? Tell us your story in the comments section below.

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