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Ring Me Up: How to Ace Your Phone Interview

David Law

Sun, 20 Jan, 2019

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 4 minutes

If you’re bracing yourself for an upcoming phone interview, don’t despair! It means that you’re already through the first door and are shaping up to be a good candidate for the job.


In today’s marketplace, it might seem like everyone else is uber-qualified and unswervingly motivated— which can be a bit daunting if you’re looking for a new role yourself. What’s more: recruiters often get swamped with CVs and applications, so catching their eye isn’t exactly child’s play.


So congratulations! You’ve been noticed— that’s the first step. Now you’re warming up to your next big opportunity: the phone interview.


Like anything else, this sort of interview has its pros and cons. For example, you get more comfort and chances to prepare but, on the other hand, you might find yourself disoriented by the lack of physical cues from the recruiter.


In the end, a phone interview isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing— you simply need to use your smarts and apply a few handy tips.


You Are the Stage Manager


One of the best things about phone interviews is that the stage is yours: you set the scene for your performance. Instead of waiting outside your recruiter’s office and being in a potentially uncomfortable, unknown space, you get to choose where and how you want your interview to happen.


Of course, this doesn’t mean you should call from just anywhere. For example, doing your phone interview while driving to work is probably not a great idea.


The key here is to maximise your comfort and focus so that you can truly shine without distractions or unexpected disruptions. Someone once said, ‘Thorough preparation makes its own luck’. So how do you lay the foundations for a successful phone interview?


  • Location: It’s best to find a quiet, familiar space. You need to make sure there will be no unexpected noises or interruptions that can mess up communication. Making it a familiar place, like your own desk at home, means that you know exactly what to expect, which lowers the stress factor. If you don’t have a good place at home, choose a calm, undisturbed area in your local library. It’s smart to get to know the space beforehand.


  • Take notes: You don’t need to repeat your script from memory. In fact, if you do, you’re bound to forget something important. Instead, take notes as you prepare and research. Include your answers to possible questions (think back to past interviews) and more specific deets on the business itself, your prospective role, and questions you can ask at the end of the interview.


  • Keep your laptop or smartphone close by: In a perfect world, you’d know what to reply to any and all questions your recruiter throws at you. But, in reality, you might forget something or simply not know what they’re talking about. Here, technology is your friend: in extreme cases, you can do a quick search on your smartphone or laptop. Just make sure that you mute your device (nothing more embarrassing than a summer anthem blaring out and startling you) and that the interviewer can’t hear you typing.


  • Drink water: The typical stress and the constant talking are bound to make your throat feel like you are in The Outback. A parched mouth can make you uncomfortable and distracted, as you need to drink water but can’t stand up and go get it. So, before you start, set a full glass next to you. It’s best to be prepared!



Expression is Everything


When the recruiter can’t see your face and polished professional attire, you’re left with just one tool to impress: your voice and language. These have to come across as capable, fluent, and confident.


Why? Whether you’re a good orator (do you use filler words? Do you mumble or forget your ideas? Is your voice clear?) forms the impression the interviewer has of you and is crucial to many roles.


For example, if you’re interviewing for a sales job or a position heavy on customer service, the recruiter will ask themselves, ‘Is this candidate suitable for representing the company successfully?’


To make sure the answer to that question is an enthusiastic ‘yes’, you’ve got to practice. In front of a mirror or a willing friend, practice your answers to possible interview questions. Focus on eliminating filler words (no ‘um’, ‘er’, or ‘like’), articulating sounds fully and in a clear voice, and choosing words that reflect a professional image. Stay friendly and approachable, don’t ramble, and you’ll achieve a great show.



A Bright Third Act


Speaking of good showmanship— how you close the call is essential to a successful phone interview. If this moment is awkward, that’s the impression your recruiter will be left with. You want to avoid that!


Instead, stay calm and collected. A good way to close an interview professionally is to ask the recruiter whether they have any suggestions or insights on the topic of your application. By posing this question, you display your willingness to evolve and your openness to feedback— both awesome qualities in a candidate!



Hold the Line— It’s Probably Okay!


Just like after a hard test, candidates coming out from an interview usually think they did poorly. Why? Because of your emotional investment, you’re more likely to remember the bits in which you fumbled, instead of keeping a balanced image of your own performance.


So don’t be discouraged: remember that you probably did way better than you think you did. Now, after acing your phone interview with these practical tips, wait. Setting yourself up for success and performing at your best are the way to go— now pick up the phone and dazzle them!

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