Acing your next phone interview

The phone interview which use to be a 10-min, HR formality has now become a go to for employers to quickly weed out otherwise identical candidates. It's harder to stand out these days so employers can be much pickier. The phone interview is also much cheaper than sending interviewers on campus or flying out candidates for an interview. So before Recruiting season is in full swing I've put together a few tips to getting through the phone interview.

It's tempting to assume that a phone interview will consist of easy, "get-to-know-you" questions, but it's better to take these as seriously as you would an in-person first round interview. Phone interviews also offer a few advantages since the interviewer can't actually see you. Here are a few tips for taking advantage of the phone interview so you can show potential employers why meeting you in person wouldn't be a waste of their time.

  • Basic Phone Etiquette
  • Don't take the interview while out at a bar or going through a drive through. Don't put the interviewer on hold to answer a call from your boo. If you're sipping water or eating something, mute the line so they don't hear you. Don't interrupt the interviewer mid-sentence with an answer to a question that was only half asked. Use common sense and be professional.

  • Have your resume printed out
  • Have you ever been asked a question about previous experience and you completely blanked? Having a physical copy of your resume will help keep your thoughts in order in case you get asked about an obscure fact on your resume.

  • Write yourself a basic script
  • There are several questions you can expect during an interview and you should have rehearsed answers for these. Take advantage of the fact that the interviewer can't see you and jot down short, abbreviated answers for yourself. The idea is to have an idea of how you want the conversation to go, but don't read directly from your notes – you're interviewer will know.

  • Don't try and squeeze in the phone interview
  • You don't know how long the call will go for and sometimes the interviewer may even call a bit earlier than originally scheduled to catch you off guard.

  • Practice your opening and Closing
  • Answer the phone by saying your name. This way the interviewer doesn't have any awkward exchanges with you and they know immediately who you are. When the conversation is wrapping up, you should have a 30 second closer prepared. Be prepared to say Thanks and a quick sentence on why you'd be a great fit. Knowing exactly how you plan to start and end the conversation will make you more confident and avoid any awkward pauses.

  • Take Notes
  • Take notes during the interview. You can reference things the interviewer said later on during the interview or use it to ask a question at the end of the interview. Taking notes will also keep you focused so you don't zone out while the interviewer is talking.

  • Watch your body language
  • One of the advantages of the phone interview is that it's not in person. Which for most people means they can be more relaxed – don't abuse this. If you take the phone interview while wearing your snuggie you might be too casual during the interview. Dress comfortably – yes, that means you should actually put clothes on. Sit up straight and smile while you're talking. You'll sound more positive and energized.

  • User your web access wisely
  • Again, you have home court advantage when you have a phone interview. But this can easily come back to bite you in the a$$. You may think that you can get away with googling the answer to everything you don't know, but many people forget that the interviewer can hear you typing and notice the long pause in your response time as you're googling. Use the internet wisely during your phone interview.

So monkeys, what are your tips for phone interviews? Any phone interview war stories?

Comments (8)

Aug 27, 2012 - 7:31pm

-Dress up full, as if you were talking in person
-Watch yourself in the mirror
-Smile all the time
-Call interviewer by name
-Put notes everywhere - windows, walls, everything; know everything
-Try to go as informal and relaxed as possible, from being kind and polite to talking about weather and answering more than needed; interviewers like that and they get a good impression:

actually, work out something natural
you arent supposed to learn this stuff

this is just few of things that i like to do
and trust me, i have been in some extremely hard situations, from nasty interviewers to not knowing a language
and havent once failed to ace an interview, even if i wasnt there personally to look them in the eyes

Aug 27, 2012 - 10:28pm

Good article.

I had a phone interview for a Project Analyst gig up here in Toronto about 2 months ago (strangely enough I ran into the girl from my 2nd interview at that company this afternoon on the streetcar). Everything mentioned above is good stuff.

Some tips:
- Practice your answers beforehand take an hour or two to go through it and get the jitters out
- Be descriptive and build a picture with your words
- Pull out your Laptop and record the conversation to play it back and measure your performance
- Be cordial and a good conversationalist
- Repeating your answers to ensure that they catch everything is okay

Get it!
Aug 28, 2012 - 10:40am

Great points! I think small talk is great. Phone interviews are often used to feel out personality as well as gaining more insight on background and technical knowledge. one or two word answers are no good. This may seem a little odd, but I prefer to do phone interviews on speaker phone and place the phone in front of me like I'm speaking directly to the interviewer. It prevents me from getting distracted by providing a focal point and a target to project toward (I wouldn't suggest this method if you're planning on typing or flipping pages frequently as it is more sensitive to external noise).

Aug 28, 2012 - 12:45pm

solid post.

i have a pretty monotonous voice and that never translates well over the phone. so during phone interviews i make sure i'm standing when I talk, this helps project my voice a bit more. I also make a conscious effort to change my tone. every detail matters, especially on a quick screening call where something minor is enough to get you dinged unfortunately.

best of luck to prospective monkeys (who are serious about banking and finance) this year.

Aug 28, 2012 - 8:26pm

Great tips, fellas!

finance is the science of goal architecture.
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