Phone Interviews

Let's take a few weeks and dig into the world of interviews, starting with phone interviews.

People sometimes ask me if I have any tips specific to phone interviews compared to "regular" interviews. A lot of interview advice applies no matter the format, like focusing on the main things the interviewer needs to know, keeping your answers organized and to the point, and being prepared for behavioral questions. But here are a few extra tips for phone interviews, in no particular order:

  • If at all possible, provide a landline number for the interviewer to reach you at. A dropped call or bad connection isn't your fault per se, but is likely to color you negatively in the interviewer's mind regardless.
  • Be prepared for the call! Not answering the phone at your appointed time is akin to showing up late to an in-person interview. For phone interviews, this means you need to triple-check the time if you're in a different time zone than the interviewer.
  • A lot of people advocate getting dressed up and doing your phone interview standing to help you feel more "professional" or confident. If this works for you, awesome! I've discovered that I do best wearing normal clothes curled up on the couch with my notes, as this helps me feel more relaxed and comfortable chatting with the interviewer(s). Feeling confident and relaxed is important because nerves can absolutely be heard in your voice over the phone.
  • Using notes is great, but don't read off a piece of paper. I recently interviewed someone who appeared to be reading a response to my opening "Tell me a little about yourself" question. I tried to cut her off partway through by saying, "Great!" to move onto the next question, and she got totally flustered by my "interruption" and then picked up where she'd left off with her answer. You need to be able to sound natural and respond to the interviewer's cues.
  • Speaking of notes, here's what I like to have in front of me during a phone interview:
    • A copy of my resume and cover letter
    • A copy of the job description
    • The organization's website up on my computer, ideally starting on a "Staff" page with the name and picture of the person or people interviewing me.
    • A list with the main 1-3 messages I want to convey about myself during the interview followed by a few words for each of my best stories I can draw on to back up my answers.
  • Taking notes is also great! I advocate taking notes during any interview, but you can feel more free during a phone interview when you don't have to worry about eye contact. If you're interviewing with multiple people and aren't able to get their names and titles ahead of time, jot these down during the initial round of introductions. It's impressive to be able to ask questions tailored to a specific person's area on a phone interview.
  • Be prepared for more technical questions on a phone interview than an in-person interview. In my experience, first-round phone interviews are often done as a way of quickly weeding out candidates who can't handle the day-to-day tasks of the job, and then in-person interviews are more about "fit," communication, and other soft skills.

Those are my tips for phone interviews! Do you have any helpful tips from your own experience?