How to Ace Your Next Phone Interview

You caught the hiring manager’s attention, but you still need to pass a crucial part of the initial screening process: the phone interview.

Interview etiquette isn’t reserved for in-person meetings—you might not have the opportunity to impress potential employers face-to-face if you fumble the phone interview and let the line go dead.

So, how do you ensure you will be asked in for a follow-up? Remember these six tips.

Take Care of the Basics

Nix any disruptions or distractions. Conduct the call in a quiet space, void of barking dogs, inquisitive roommates, and noisy cappuccino makers. Also, make sure you have cell service—use a landline, if possible. You would hate for the call to drop just when you have the hiring manager convinced you are the ideal candidate for the job.

Be Prepared

Before sitting down for the call, make sure you have all reference materials nearby, including your resumé and the job description, which you should have already dissected word-for-word. By understanding the details of the job, you will be able to effectively explain why you are a fit for the position. Highlight how the skills on your resumé align with the responsibilities listed in the job description.

Having reference materials nearby also means you have a prompt for when there’s a lull in conversation. Just avoid sounding like you are reading notes verbatim.

Take Notes

You should make sure you are taking notes, however. Jot down the kind of questions the employer is asking and flag any patterns. If the hiring manager continues to emphasize a particular skillset or aspect of the job, it’s a strong indication of what he or she will be asking you during the follow-up, in-person interview. Rehearse responses ahead of time.

Keep Answers Concise

Note the difference between a lull in conversation and customary silence—silence isn’t an invitation to ramble. After you answer a question, give the hiring manager time to respond with a comment or follow-up inquiry; you don’t want to overwhelm him or her with details.

Really listen to what is being asked and give yourself time to think before responding. You want to show you are strategic, which you won’t do by blurting out answers. And to be safe, limit your responses to two minutes per question.

Forget You’re on the Phone

If you look the part, you will act the part. Dress as professionally as you would for an in-person interview, so you exude that same confidence in your responses.

When you are talking, make sure you smile and speak with enthusiasm. Employers hire for cultural fit, and this is your first opportunity to show off your personality. As pointed out by The Muse, the number one mistake you can make during a phone interview “is sounding tired, bored, or disengaged.” Convey energy and passion for the position. If you need to, stand like you’re giving a speech to keep your energy high and focus zeroed in.

Follow Up

Before you hang up the phone, reiterate your interest in the position and ask what next steps and a potential time frame for those steps might be. After the call, send an email to the hiring manager within 24 hours thanking him or her for taking the time to speak with you. Within 48 hours, send a handwritten note, which might sound outdated but will show you go beyond what’s expected.

If you want an in-person interview, you need to master the phone interview first.