When you’re looking for a new 9-to-5, you will no doubt be elated when you finally land a job interview for the position you’ve been coveting. (We won’t blame you for busting out into a spontaneous happy dance. Go for it.)
And you might be even more thrilled to hear that the recruiter wants to interview you over the phone first, which means you can dazzle them with your personality and charm without even getting out of your fuzzy pajamas, right? What’s not to love?
Wrong. So wrong. Phone interviews can totally go wrong.
With a seemingly ever-increasing number of candidates for each open position, companies frequently use phone interviews as a way to screen candidates before bringing them in to meet IRL, which means that if you’re badass enough to snag a phone interview, you’d better bring your A-game.
But how do you handle a phone screening with your potential dream company?The fact is, phone interviews are just as important as in-person interviews, so listen up: Here are some crucial tips on how to nail that phone interview and move ahead to the next round of candidates, inching you that much closer to your dream job.
1Prepare just as you would for a regular interview.
You would never go into an in-person interview without doing thorough research on the company and the position, so don’t treat a phone interview like it’s any more casual than an in-person one. You absolutely have to prepare and know your stuff, otherwise the recruiter will have no interest in moving you to the next round of candidates. Know the basics (at the very least), and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible.
2Pick your location in advance.
Since you won’t be traveling to meet anyone, it’s on you to pick a suitable interview location, so choose wisely. Don’t take the call while you’re driving or walking on a busy street, obviously, but even taking a phone interview at home requires some prep ahead of time. If you can call from a landline, do so to prevent spotty cell service issues. And make sure that all alarms and sounds are quiet. If you’ve got pets or children, schedule the interview for a time when you can be completely alone. Pick somewhere comfortable, but not, like, sleepy comfortable.
If you’re job hunting while currently employed and you schedule a phone interview while at work, practice extreme discretion and make sure you reserve a conference room or private space to eliminate any potential disruptions — or your current boss walking in on you. Yikes.
3Prepare your voice.
We know you’re not an opera singer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare your voice before a phone interview. If you’re scheduling the interview first thing in the morning, make sure you’re hydrated and your throat is well-coated to prevent groggy morning voice, which is hardly a desirable attribute in a potential candidate. Drink some water or tea with honey, and suck on a cough drop or lozenge to get your voice ready to go well before you dial that phone. Just take it easy on the liquids so you’re not stuck in an emergency bladder situation mid-interview.
4Dress the part.
Phone interviews are great because you don’t need to change out of your comfy clothes to put on a stuffy, professional outfit, right? Eh, maybe not so much, friends. In fact, you might even want to still put on a formal outfit if that’s what will make you feel more confident and put together than you would in your sriracha-stained college sweatshirt and yoga pants. It’s an easy signal to your brain that this is something to take seriously, and you’ll definitely need that even if you don’t think you do.
Yeah, we know. It probably feels super creepy to sit in your living room smiling at someone who isn’t there, but we’re big proponents of acting like you are having a face-to-face conversation with the interviewer, even if they’re miles away. The interviewer will pick up on your positive, upbeat tone, which is exactly the biggest challenge of a phone interview in the first place, right?
If it makes you feel better to have a photo of the person on hand while you’re chatting so it feels more like an in-person convo, do so. Just make sure you throw it out afterwards or else you’ll feel even creepier with a printed photo of someone you’ve never met.
You should always take notes in an interview, but it’s especially important during a phone interview. You’ll want to have reference points to mention in your follow-up thank you note (which you’ll definitely be writing, naturally) and also thoughts about potential questions you have about the position. Keep your own resume and the job description handy while you chat, and be sure to reference these as the conversation flows.
There are a few things you wouldn’t do in an in-person interview but that might seem OK in a phone interview. For example, don’t eat or drink. Even if you think you’re being discreet, there’s a good chance the recruiter can hear you slurping your tomato basil soup, and just…ew.
Keep a glass of water handy in case you need it, but don’t nervously drink from it if you can avoid it. And this should be a given, but don’t smoke or chew gum.
Again, don’t get too comfortable. Make sure you’re sitting upright, preferably at a desk. Taking a phone interview from your couch, bed, or even the bathtub is not the way to a successful phone screening. Even if you think it will help you to relax, a bubble bath is not the place to chat with your potential future boss. And honestly, “relaxed” might not be what you want. A little tension keeps you on your toes and keeps your brain turned on.
Since you’re lacking visual cues during a phone interview, you’ll need to work extra hard to nail the flow of the conversation. Paul Bailo, author of The Essential Phone Interview Handbook told Business Insider a few helpful tips for this even if you’re all sweaty palms and racing heart.
Of course, you’ll still want to ask thoughtful questions and show you’re engaged (and not falling asleep), so be sure to exude as much confidence as you can, speak clearly and slowly, and cross your fingers that your phone interview turns into a job offer before you know it.