Call Me Maybe: 5 Phone Interview Strategies

This guest post was written by Career Devel­op­ment intern and aspiring Career Coun­selor, Mike Ahern.

Phone inter­views are becoming increas­ingly pop­ular as hiring man­agers look for new ways to sep­a­rate desir­able can­di­dates from the rest of the pack. Throughout mul­tiple job searches as an under­grad­uate and grad­uate stu­dent I’ve relied on a few inten­tional strate­gies to carry my can­di­dacy through to the second round. Here are 5 strate­gies to make sure you have a suc­cessful phone interview.

1. “Dress for the job you WANT …”

Just because the inter­viewer can’t see you, doesn’t mean you should take the call in your pajamas. Studies have shown that the type of clothing you wear can greatly impact how you per­ceive your­self in any given work space or envi­ron­ment. Putting on your busi­ness clothes will put you into a pro­fes­sional mindset and better pre­pare you for the inter­view. Wearing work­place attire can even cor­rect pos­ture, in turn altering how you sound over the phone. So take the extra time to pick out a pro­fes­sional outfit and dress for the job you want.

(Note: this doesn’t mean you should show up on your first day dressed as an astronaut…)

2. “Before any­thing else prepa­ra­tion is the key to success”

For any type of inter­view, whether over the phone, on Skype, or in person, you should be spending a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time preparing. A large part of effi­ciently preparing for a suc­cessful inter­view will be antic­i­pating thetypes of ques­tions you will be asked. Be pre­pared to answer a variety of ques­tions and have answers with spe­cific exam­ples. Take notes on ruled paper or better yet, a per­sonal favorite, uti­lize note cards. There’s no rule stating that you can’t have your note cards spread out around the desk while you are on the phone. Just be sure not to sound like a robot if you have to read off of them.

3. “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing”

The phone inter­view can be a great oppor­tu­nity to show your level of enthu­siasm and knowl­edge about the posi­tion or the industry it is in. Be sure to take the ini­tia­tive to research the com­pany. How many employees does it have? How has it been per­forming? Are there any new pro­grams or prod­ucts the company/​business/​organization is releasing? Showing that you under­stand the trends and status of the com­pany will show the hiring man­ager your level of under­standing about the busi­ness and that can help push your appli­ca­tion into the second round pile.

4. “The only stupid ques­tion is the ques­tion that is never asked.”

At the end of prac­ti­cally every inter­view the employer will ask if there are any ques­tions you want to ask. Think of this as one more oppor­tu­nity to leave a lasting impact. Ask about that new project you researched. Ask what skills the ideal can­di­date would have (I’ll per­son­ally use this one then try to tie my expe­ri­ences to what the employer is looking for) Simply replying “No I don’t have any ques­tions” doesn’t show a lot of enthu­siasm and leads to a missed oppor­tu­nity to wrap up the con­ver­sa­tion in a mean­ingful way.

5. “Prac­tice… We’re not talking about a game… we’re talking about Prac­tice…”

You can increase your chances of having a great phone inter­view before you even pick up the phone; through prac­tice. This can be one of the most over looked strate­gies for prep­ping for any kind of inter­view. Taking the time to sit with a friend and parse out pos­sible ques­tions you might encounter will get you in the right mindset. If you can’t find a willing par­tic­i­pant to inter­view you, try uti­lizing a smart­phone to record your answers to pre­s­e­lected ques­tions. Play back the tape and notice how you respond. Do you say “um” a lot? Did a few of the ques­tions make you pause and think? Con­sider prac­tice as an invalu­able strategy to increase your chances of sounding pro­fes­sional on the phone.

Overall these five strate­gies will help set you up for a suc­cessful phone inter­view. As always keep in mind that as a cur­rent under­grad­uate, grad­uate or alumnus you have innu­mer­able resources at your fin­ger­tips, cour­tesy of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Career Devel­op­ment office.

Mike Ahern is a Career Devel­op­ment Intern at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity in Career Devel­op­ment. Cur­rently he is pur­suing a grad­uate degree in Higher Edu­ca­tion in Stu­dent Affairs at Salem State Uni­ver­sity. Con­nect with Mike on LinkedIn or on Twitter @MIkeAAhern