The phone interview is the route to the main event. Everyone always asks how to smash an interview (and now, video interviews), but the phone interviews often get overlooked.
I actually spend more time doing phone interviews, so I’ve spoken to many people who do it well – and many, not so much.
Here’s a few practical tips to impress on your next phone interview.
Set yourself up for success
Just after leaving Uni, I’d passed the initial call with a recruiter to secure myself a phone interview for a company I was super excited about. I used to work a lot and the only time they could do coincided with one of my shifts. So, what did I do? I did the interview in the back office. Please don’t do this.
Even though I had told everyone this space was out of bounds for the duration of the interview – they did the exact opposite. And it cost me the job.
Create a calm environment, that you have control over. Book out a room where you can be alone with no distractions. Whether at home or in the office. This’ll give you the headspace to think clearly and avoid any unnecessary slip-ups.
I don’t know about you, but even once this is done, just before any phone interview I’ve ever had I get really nervous. So, try going a bit further.
A few minutes before I’ll start hitting the Tony Robbins-esque ‘power stances’. Whether these poses actually do anything chemically, I’m not too sure, but it gives me a burst of confidence like nothing else. The nerves just drain away. I’ve even gone as far as star jumps to use up some of that excess adrenaline.
I’m also partial to a bit of self-talking and getting myself pumped. “You can do it.” “You got this.” “You’re going to smash this interview.”
Find what works for you and make this part of your pre-interview rituals.
Some people actually recommend getting dressed up as if they’re going to a face-to-face interview. Whilst I get the psychology behind it, I don’t like to give advice that I wouldn’t actually do myself. But if it works for you then go for it.
In the heat of it
Once that phone rings, it’s game-time. The main thing here is to be engaging on the phone. If you’ve gotten this far, they’ve clearly seen potential in you. Your CV has done its job and your experience has been deemed relevant to what they need. Essentially, it’s about selling yourself.
In sales, there’s the age-old term “Smile and dial.” This is real. Make sure before you pick up that phone, and the whole way throughout, you’re smiling. This is going to feel weird. But don’t worry. They can’t see you. And if you’re not convinced, try recording yourself. Record yourself answering a question whilst smiling and then again whilst frowning. I guarantee there’s a huge difference.
To supplement this, I’ll never do a phone interview sitting down. At the very least you want to ensure your posture is good. If nothing else, this will make it much easier for you to speak clearly over the phone and be more engaging.
There’s a fine balance to hit when on phone interviews. It’s harder to build rapport over the phone so you need to make sure there are no one-word answers – but then, make sure you’re keeping it concise. Ask questions and be inquisitive – but make sure they are leading the conversation.
Take it to the next level
There’s a few advantages you have during a phone interview – use them. Create a cheat-sheet of answers to commonly-asked questions and have them on sticky-notes around you. You could have key bits of information about the company or the hiring manager to hand, so you don’t forget to show you’ve done your research.
My favourite though – take notes. There are so many benefits to doing this. Write down questions that have arisen to ask at the end. Listen to what the interviewer is saying about the role and the company and use this same language to sell yourself back to them.
Go that bit further if you want. Actually ask them, “what have other candidates been lacking so far?” Boom, there it is. The answers to what they’re looking for. Use this info in the later stages of the process to show why you’re the perfect candidate.
Getting ready and being prepared for a full interview is great, but make sure you do everything you can to get yourself there by smashing the phone interview.
I hope this helps.