Mastering Phone Interviews

You’ve made it! Well, almost. You’ve arrived at the next step of the application process: the interview. This is your chance to bring your application to life. It’s your chance to make an impression—to stand out. Putting a face or voice to a name helps interviewers gain a better understanding of who you are and why they should choose you.

Interviews are typically conducted in person, but many companies prefer to interview candidates over the phone or via Skype, either as a preliminary screening or for the actual interview. A lot of people find the interview to be the most intimidating part of the application process. But as long as you are fully prepared and have done your research on the company or program, there’s no reason it won’t be a success. Here are some useful tips to help you master your phone or Skype interview.

Be Prepared

Preparation is key to any interview, and Forbes says this is especially true for phone interviews. Because you do not have the benefit of eye contact or body language, it’s important to exert an aura of professionalism. For Skype interviews, where the interviewer can see you, preparation and professionalism are as important as they would be for an in-person interview. Being prepared demonstrates interest and dedication, and also shows you’re taking this as seriously as a traditional interview. Before the interview, we recommend that you:

  • Print your application materials: Your interviewer likely has a copy of your resume, cover letter, and application handy, and you should as well so you can speak directly to specific points. You do not want to be caught off guard by a reference to something you don’t remember offhand.
  • Stay connected to the Internet: While you shouldn’t be browsing casually, access to the internet can be helpful—as long there aren’t unneeded tabs open. Having the company’s website open allows an easy reference. If there is anything you need to email one another, you can do so quickly.
  • Allow yourself time: The last thing you want is to seem rushed during a phone or Skype interview. Allow yourself plenty of time to get ready, arrive at your designated location, and organize your materials. Get a glass of water. When the interviewer calls, you will be calm and ready to begin. If you’re scrambling at the last minute to get everything together, you’ll come across as flustered.

Don’t rush through the interview either. Clear enough time to let it progress at its own pace. Sometimes they take ten minutes; sometimes they take an hour. If you’re rushing through a lunch break, or have another interview scheduled immediately after, you may not be able to make the best possible impression.

Location, Location, Location!

In a phone or Skype interview, you have home field advantage. You choose the location that works for you. This can be a comfort, knowing you are in a familiar setting. This helps some people stay focused, but for others it can be a distraction. Choose a comfortable, private place that allows you to focus, hear, and be heard clearly. When choosing the perfect place:

  • Avoid noisy or crowded areas. Cafes, bookstores, and even your living room. However, if you have roommates, living rooms may not be conducive to phone interviews.
  • Find a place where you can speak freely. If you can’t be alone, find a place where the people around you can keep the noise to a minimum. A library wouldn’t be a good place, unless there was a private study room, because you need to speak in your normal voice. If interviewing for a job, you may not want to interview at work.
  • Don’t get too comfortable. Sitting at a desk or table maintains a feeling of professionalism. You want to be comfortable, but you also don’t want to interview from bed.
  • Prepare the area. Do you have everything you need? Are you fully connected? Is your cell phone completely charged? A landline is recommended to avoid sudden disconnections, but if you do use your cell phone, make sure you have full reception and a full battery. You should ideally interview from home. If you have children, consider making arrangements for somebody to watch them. The same goes for pets.

Go Above and Beyond

How can you capture the essence of who you are if the person has never met you? US News recommends maintaining professional body language during a phone interview, and this is especially necessary for Skype interviews. Here are some important do’s and don’t’s:

  • Don’t pace
  • Don’t play with things around you
  • Don’t hold the phone between your shoulder and your ear
  • Look into your webcam for Skype interviews
  • Smile. Smiling brings energy and enthusiasm to your voice
  • Be even more professional than you’d normally be
  • Ask insightful questions
  • Answer questions enthusiastically
  • Never interrupt
  • Be concise and honest in your answers
  • Stay confident in your achievements and present them with conviction
  • Dress to impress. Dressing professionally helps you feel more professional, and inspires confidence in a way that wearing pajamas or sweatpants won’t.

The first few minutes are the most important, so lead with your shining achievements. You need to convey over the phone that you know you are the ideal candidate.  If your presence can’t speak for you, the interviewer has little to work with. Make your phone persona show them who you really are.

Interviews are an exciting challenge when you approach them from the perspective of giving a voice to your resume and allowing yourself to showcase the best of who you are. While phone interviews are different from traditional interviews, many of the same rules still apply. And in video interviews, these rules are even more important—but at least you can be confident that much of your charm and aura will come through. Professionalism, confidence, and personality are key. Remembering these tips will help you wow the interviewer as if they interviewed you in person!


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