Looking to Master Your Next Phone Interview? These 10 Tips Will Help You Advance to the Next Round

a woman talking on a phone

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Jess Vyvial-Larson for FlexJobs
Jess Vyvial-Larson for FlexJobs
April 18, 2024 at 11:40AM UTC
You’ve written the perfect cover letter, your resume is spotless, and the employer has contacted you to conduct a phone interview with them. Now the worry starts to set in. You’ve never had a phone interview. You are excellent in person, but you’re unclear about bridging the gap between a traditional interview and a phone interview.

Admittedly, this can be a challenge, as many of the cues and communication during a face-to-face interview are lost. However, with more and more companies relying on phone interviews to screen candidates, it’s essential to master your phone interview skills.

Mastering a phone interview.

Preparing for your first phone interview can be daunting, but you’ll knock it out of the park if you prepare strategically.

1. Choose a quiet space.

It cannot be stressed enough that distractions can kill a perfect interview. You do not want to have anything in the background that makes noise or takes your attention away from the discussion. Smartphones and devices can pick up and transmit sounds that you may not even think can be heard, distracting both you and the recruiter.

Never plan to interview when kids are around or sleeping, as they are often unpredictable and noisy. Avoid places like the outdoors, your car, or any other noise-prone area. Remote work requires a quiet space to work, and you need to demonstrate to your potential employer that you have the space needed to focus and be productive.

2. Remove distractions.

Regardless of whether you’re in your home office or any other room in the house, distractions abound. Computers can sound desktop alerts, magazines can slide to the ground, and laundry that needs to be folded can all vie for your attention when you’re stressed out. Take some time to remove those distractions before you begin the interview. Turn off your computer and cell phone alerts, put away the laundry, and hide the books and magazines.

3. Outline talking points.

A benefit to doing a phone interview over a video interview or an in-person interview is that you can easily have notes available to reference. Research tough interview questions and prepare answers. Jot these down on a notepad that you can keep near the phone. You should have a 30-second elevator pitch prepared, explaining why you applied for the position and why you believe you would be a good fit. Know how your abilities fit with the position and be prepared to discuss how you see yourself succeeding in that role.

4. Choose your attire intentionally.

Even if it’s a phone interview and your interviewer won’t see what you look like, that doesn’t mean your yoga pants are the best way to go. The cliché adage can be true: dress for success. Dress in a way that will make you feel your best and feel like a professional.
Maybe that means you need to put on slacks and a nice blouse as you would for an in-person interview. Or, perhaps you can put on jeans and still feel good. Whatever the case, be mindful that what you wear can affect the confidence you portray on the phone.

5. Test your tech.

Before any interview, always ensure that your equipment is functioning. Check that your signal is strong if you’re using your cell phone. If you’re using an online platform, such as Skype or Zoom, check your internet connection to ensure it’s fast and reliable. You can always do a test run with a friend to verify that your mic and camera are working. This phone interview tip cannot be overlooked, as rescheduling isn’t always an option.

6. Invest time in preparation.

Betsy Andrews, one of FlexJobs’ career coaches, offered this advice: “Prepare, prepare, prepare. Practice answering common interview questions and remote-specific questions, and do a little online research to see if there are company-specific concerns that might come up.”
You should also have pertinent information at your fingertips. It’s a good rule of thumb to have a copy of your resume, information about the company, the job description, and correspondence from the company readily available. Highlight critical job descriptions and target qualities so you can remember to include them during open-ended questions.

7. Be mindful of your body language.

Smiling when you don’t have the camera on might seem like a silly tip, but the sound of a smile comes through in your voice. Not only can smiling during a phone interview can make you sound excited and happy to be talking about your qualifications, but it can also calm your nerves and make you feel better.
Try saying this aloud: “I’m interested in this job.” Now, say it again but with a smile on your face. Did you hear the difference? Smiling while talking elevates your voice, and it’s noticeable to others. Not only that, but smiling is likely to improve your mood and attitude, carrying through to the rest of the interview. In that same vein, your body language can affect a phone interview as well. Sitting up straight, not fidgeting with your hands, and managing your breathing can all lead to a more confident you.
You could also do the interview standing up if your video is off. Standing up makes your voice clearer and allows you to take deeper breaths. Many speakers find that standing will enable them to pace and calm their nerves while conveying confidence in their voice, which is more challenging to achieve while sitting.

8. Pause and breathe.

In a phone interview, you need to be more aware of pauses in conversation. Give more time than you would typically after an interviewer speaks to ensure they’ve finished talking. Speaking over the other person on a phone call often leads to a round of, “Oh, sorry, what did you say?” The conversation will likely run smoother if you give ample time to let the interviewer finish speaking before you respond.

9. Ask relevant questions.

Interviews need to take a professional and conversational tone. Participating in the dialogue will show your interest in the position and give them information about you. Andrews offered this phone interview tip: “Instead of relying on remembering pertinent questions to ask, have a list ready and beside you during the call. I recommend having a minimum of four listed in case they have already covered a couple of them before asking if you have questions.”
  • What makes it an excellent day at the company?
  • What makes it a challenging day?
  • What does a successful employee look like to you?
  • How will my work performance be evaluated?”
Ask the interviewer what their next steps are, and when you might hear from them. And don’t forget to ask if there’s anything else you can send them.

10. Follow up with a thank you.

“The final step of any successful interview is often overlooked—sending a thank-you email to the interviewer the same day of the interview. Keep the message professional but short and sweet by thanking them for their time, adding a couple of specific points of why you’re a great candidate for the position, and reiterating your enthusiasm toward the position and company,” said Andrews.

Ace your phone interview.

Remember that your personality and sincerity can make the difference between you and another candidate with similar skills and references. By employing these phone interview tips, you can convey your abilities and passion for the job.

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This article originally appeared in FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for those participating in a phone interview? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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