Moving around the world as much as I have, I’ve had my fair share of phone or virtual interviews. At first, it seems great. You can totally chill on the couch in your PJs while securing a new job. I’m 100% there for that!
Until life intervenes and everything blows up.
Help Prevent the Implosion from Happening With These 10 Tips for a Phone Interview
1. Do your research
Before you even get on the phone, it’s important to know about the company and the position. You want this job and are super qualified. You need to communicate that over the phone.
Poke around their website quite a bit. It’s not just the tagline that you need to be able to quote verbatim. Instead, you should be very aware of their mission, history, focus and purpose.
Depending on the position you are applying for, you could also do specific research. Look at the position-related content on the company’s website. Another option, if you have experience in the field already, is to create a brief summary of what you anticipate the position to look like and how you would fill that role most effectively.
2. Practice Questions
Practice makes perfect, especially for a job interview. The most successful interviews I’ve ever had involved hours of prep work.
If you have been in this field before, you’ve likely been through this process as least once. Try to write down, from memory, questions that you’ve been asked at previous interviews. If you are new to this field or just entering the workforce, link up with a mentor or career prep center. They can help you to work through typical job interview questions.
Either way, write out your answers to each potential question. Next, find a partner to practice with. Your spouse, friend, mentor or career advisor will role play the interviewer. They’ll ask you possible questions; you’ll answer. Try not to use your written answers if you’ll be doing a video interview. Having your responses nearby is perfectly fine for phone or off-camera interviews, though!
3. Create a Portfolio
At an in-person interview for a professional position, you’d be sharing your best work with a portfolio or through samples. While you won’t be able to do this during your phone interview, it’s helpful to have your best work on hand for your own reference. It can help trigger anecdotes or create deeper answers to questions.
If your portfolio is digital, you can offer to share your files before, during or after your interview. This shows your dedication and commitment to the position.
4. Tech Logistics
When you plan the interview, you should confirm how everything will take place. If you are in the U.S. calling the U.S., you will have fewer issues. Operating OCONUS and connecting with the U.S.? You’ll need to nail down specifics, especially timing due to the different time zones.
Confirm the time and platform (phone, online call, etc.) 24 hours before your interview. This helps to bring you to the forefront of the interviewer’s mind.
5. Location Location
Where is this interview happening? I’ve always done better in a semi-professional setting where I am comfortable. The best bet is to sit at your desk or dining room table. For on-camera interviews, try to ensure good lighting.
Being in a professional setting means that you will have your career tools easily on hand. From jotting down notes on Post-Its to pulling things up on your computer, being at your control center gives you more, well, control!
6. Noise Control
Speaking of control, what are your plans for noise interference? I have 2 kids and a dog and live in a military flight path. I needed to have a plan for my phone interviews. There is nothing worse than having a rowdy toddler bust into your super serious chat!
If you can, hire a sitter or arrange for your spouse to be home. For things outside of your control, like a dog barking or noisy planes, explain them and apologize for these possible interruptions in advance.
You should also have a back-up plan in case of technical difficulties. If you are unable to connect, immediately email or message the interviewer to apologize and explain the difficulty. Then offer several options to reconnect right away.
7. Dress for Success
While interviewing in your comfy sweatpants sounds great, it might not work in your favor. Wearing relaxing clothes makes you more casual, which is the opposite of what you want to do on this call. Instead, put on real clothes.
I like to wear skinny jeans and a cute blouse for off-camera interviews. For video calls, I wear a professional button down, jewelry and do my hair and make-up.
When I feel professional I act professional. This can totally help you nail the ideal tone of voice and stay on-point.
8. Honesty Always
It’s important to upsell yourself, sure. But there is a fine line between a professional upsell and dishonesty. If you don’t have the exact experience the company is looking for, be honest. If you think you could quickly pick up that skill set or expand your area of expertise, tell your interviewer that.
Follow all common interview etiquette rules. Be prompt and prepared at the time the interview. Take water with you in case of coughing or a dry mouth. Ask thoughtful follow-up questions and share only as much personal information as appropriate to the position and the situation.
After the interview, immediately send a thank you email. Express how much you enjoyed speaking to your interviewer and why you are excited about this position. Close the email by saying that you look forward to continuing your conversation.
10. Be Yourself!
Most companies don’t want a robot doing the job. They want a person with quirks and a sense of humor. Let your light shine and toot your horn loudly. Maybe skip sharing your affinity for true crime, but totally crack a few (safe) jokes if it feels right.