How to not suck at phone interviews

I've conducted hundreds of phone interviews, more than i'd like to count. here's some advice i'd like to pass along, some of it (most of it) is pretty common sense, but i still get these mistakes. please feel free to add to the list, i'm sure i've missed some.

General calls:
-usually I call the intern/job applicant, but if you're calling me, CALL ON TIME. if the call is 11am, 11:00-11:03 is fine. anything beyond that is pushing it. 11:15? don't even bother unless you have a really good excuse
-I can't stress this enough, get your time zones right, you already know i'm in et, if we agree on 12:30, know that I mean my timezone, not yours (i always try to write et after the scheduled time, but once in awhile I still get kids in pt asleep when i call with the attitude that I f'd up the call time)
-be somewhere quiet, VERY quiet. if you're driving / at a loud cafe / have friends yelling in background = dinged
-just like any other interview, don't be awkward, TREAT IT LIKE A FRIENDLY FORMAL CONVERSATION. since this is all voice I can't judge your body language, so instead everything will be judged by your conversation skills, tone of voice, confidence, knowledge etc.
-if the interviewer doesnt answer the phone, please know how to leave a formal/proper voicemail (name / your # / best time to get back to you / etc)
-common problem with phone interviews is both people speaking at the same time (especiallywith conference calls), if this happens, pause, and allow the interviewer to proceed

Specific to Skype calls:
-if you're calling from skype and i'm on my cell (ie with international calls), PLEASE have a clean connection. I understand if the call drops once, more than that it becomes an annoyance.
-if we're both talking on skype assume it's NOT going to be on video unless I say so beforehand, so don't load your webcam when I call you. everyone is different so if you're not sure feel free to ask your interviewer beforehand if the call will be on video
-don't have an unprofessional avatar / username (i've seen some weird ones...)

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Comments (25)

Apr 9, 2013 - 9:32pm

Great post, is there any particular way to greet and end the call? Ways that'll get an applicant dinged?

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Apr 9, 2013 - 10:36pm

andrew1g:
Great post, is there any particular way to greet and end the call? Ways that'll get an applicant dinged?

greeting is pretty standard, introduce yourself, adjust your speed/tone to the interviewer's (ie you can tell they have a lot of shit going on at the time). small talk sometimes can be a good ice breaker if it's clever / not awkward / not a waste of time. ie look up the news in the person's city and make a comment about it.

ending the call.... let the interviewer lead, again if they seem to be in a rush make sure to match their pace and let them go, thank them for taking the time, dont be awkward

what else... take notes during the call. if for whatever reason there's specific details that need to be followed up on in email afterwards, send that email promptly, make it look organized/neat, and make sure to include another "thank you"

also, i've enjoyed talking to applicants and remembered them above others who've had the confidence to lead the intro so I dont have to think, esp. if i'm having a shitty day, ie ask me if how my bracket went, what i think of cyprus, the recent blizzard, whatever, just dont be a cliche and dont sound fake, let it roll naturally

hope this helps

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Apr 9, 2013 - 10:41pm

Banker88:
Unfortunate that this isn't common sense to people.

yeah, being good on the phone for a professional call is an underrated skill, i'd advise kids to practice with some ppl (friends of family members, mentors, former boss etc etc) before jumping on the phone for an interview they really care about
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Apr 9, 2013 - 10:38pm

Great post. Echo the question on how to greet an interviewer. I've heard that answering the phone with your name (*pick up phone* "Hello, this is _________") is generally advised vs just answering with "hello." Your take?

I know it's a probably a pretty trivial thing but still. I understand it's probably more professional (and how most people answer the phone in the workplace) but to me it seems a little unnecessary for students.

Apr 9, 2013 - 10:44pm

Richard Parker:
Great post. Echo the question on how to greet an interviewer. I've heard that answering the phone with your name (*pick up phone* "Hello, this is _________") is generally advised vs just answering with "hello." Your take?

I know it's a probably a pretty trivial thing but still. I understand it's probably more professional (and how most people answer the phone in the workplace) but to me it seems a little unnecessary for students.

yes great point, when interviewer calls, don't answer with "hello..?"

"hi/hello this is ___ speaking" = simple/easy/professional

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Apr 10, 2013 - 12:59am

gstackle32:
having a shot or two of vodka before never hurts

I find this becomes even more applicable for face to face interviews

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Apr 10, 2013 - 9:15pm

gstackle32:
having a shot or two of vodka before never hurts

true, can't smell your breath, just don't leave the bottle in the background
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Apr 10, 2013 - 1:05am

What pisses me off the most during phone interviews is multiple people talking at the same time, and if you've spoken to a lot of bankers, you know they can talk for an HOUR if you don't interrupt them. I let them know who's boss.

Apr 10, 2013 - 5:11am

Try to avoid bath salts, salvia and other synthetic drugs while preparing for a phone interview. I've found the person on the other end can typically tell if you are a wierd kind of high. It might provide a solid topic for conversation, but probably not worth the risk. At Babydick we route phone interviewers to the local 867-5309 number because it plays the corresponding ring back tone (Jennie I got your number!). Hope this helps and feel free to reach out. - Martha, HR director, Babydick Capital

Apr 10, 2013 - 4:44pm

BabydickCapital:
Try to avoid bath salts, salvia and other synthetic drugs while preparing for a phone interview. I've found the person on the other end can typically tell if you are a wierd kind of high. It might provide a solid topic for conversation, but probably not worth the risk.

That being said - I've had some of my best phone interviews/informational interviews after smoking a J or two 15 minutes prior to the call.

Apr 10, 2013 - 9:03pm

Diablo Blankfein:
If I want to write a thank you note afterwards, should I ask interviewer's email address during Q&A?

yeah, this type of context seems to work well on me: "thanks ___ for your time, can I have your email in case I have any follow up questions?" me: "of course, it's __"

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Apr 10, 2013 - 5:29pm

Tips for Skype video calls? I've found them to be rather unnatural in the past.

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Apr 10, 2013 - 9:14pm

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