Sometimes it feels like you have to go through countless rounds of interviews in order to get a job. After you submit your initial application you might find yourself doing an HR phone screen, an initial phone interview, and then if you pass those rounds you might be brought in for a round of face-to-face interviews. If you want to make it to the in-person stage of things, you’ll need to really wow them during the phone interview.
If you are a freelancer, then a phone interview is likely the final stage in the hiring process. You are very likely only going to communicate with your clients over email, messenger app, and phone calls. So it’s pretty important to get your distance communication skills on-point asap.
A Tough Way to Interview
Coming across as an outstanding candidate during a phone interview might seem pretty tough, and it is. For one thing, a lot of us rarely talk on the phone any more. It can seem awkward and distant, especially for people who prefer text-based communications. While that might be hard for some people to understand, new technology trends have made traditional phone calls nearly obsolete for a lot of people. I really have no clue what my standard phone call ringtone even is; I almost never make regular phone calls.
Phone calls can also be tough because you can’t read nonverbal cues. During an interview, you are supposed to be your best self, and reading your interviewer’s expressions and body language can help you to hit the right tone. For example, if you make a quip face-to-face during an interview, you are likely to know right away if they found it amusing or off-putting. On the phone, it can be nearly impossible to know if what you said was taken the right way.
How to Rock the Phone Interview
If you think about it, a phone interview is pretty low pressure. They can’t see you, and you get to pick your environment. Having a phone interview is a bit like taking an open-book exam. You can surround yourself with everything that you need to succeed, and no one will judge you for it. Here are ten tips for acing your phone interview:
- Make sure you know if it will be an audio or video chat – This can be a killer. I remember once I assumed I would be having a standard phone interview, and wow was I mistaken. Luckily, I wasn’t in my pajamas. I learned from that point on if someone schedules a call, it’s important to clarify what type of call that will be before agreeing. If there is a big time difference or you know that you will be out and about, try to push for an audio interview. Otherwise, you will be scrambling to look presentable or find a decent video-chat environment and that can be challenging.
- Determine how many people will be on the call – When you have a phone interview it can be with one person or an entire panel. If there are several people interviewing you at once it can be confusing and chaotic. Still, some companies prefer to get a group opinion on candidates, and you’ll find yourself talking to 3 or 4 interviewers. If you can know this ahead of time, then you will be able to mentally prepare a bit more. You will also be able to make directed notes on what each interviewer asked, which will help once you send a follow-up note.
- Have a glass of water nearby – Phone interviews give you the chance to talk a lot. This can be great, but it can also leave you pretty parched. Keeping water on-hand just makes sense in any interview situation, so have some on the table while you interview.
- Make sure you won’t be interrupted – One of the perks of phone interviews is you can do them from pretty much anywhere. However, you still need to come off as professional and that can be nearly impossible if you take the call in a loud coffee shop or if your home is chaotic. Having a quiet and calm environment will help keep you focused and less stressed. It will also reduce the interviewer’s frustration. Even though you could technically do the phone interview while at the mall, it’s just a better idea to take the call in a calm environment that you can control.
- Keep a notepad and pen next to you – This is just common sense, but it really helps. While you can use your computer somewhat, it is pretty off-putting when an interviewer hears you typing away (even if you are just taking notes). While there are a few times I recommend using your computer during a phone interview (read on for those), when you are taking notes it’s typically best to just do it the old fashioned way.
- Have the company’s website up on your computer – If you’re on a phone interview, it leaves you free to scan the company website during the call. That way, you can be on-top of things no matter which direction the call takes. If your interviewer focuses on the company’s latest initiatives then click on the News and Press Releases section of their website. If the focus on leadership, go to the About Us
- Print a copy of your resume and have it with you – We all forget things we have done in previous jobs. If you’re nervous during a phone interview, you might draw a blank. If you have your resume with you, then you’ll be able to easily reference past jobs and skills without having to stall while you wrack your brain.
- Open a draft email so you can make a list of things you promised to send or follow up on during the call – One of the worst feelings after a phone interview is when you think to yourself, “I know I promised to send something… but what was it?” If you have a draft email open, you can easily type short notes and expand on them after the call.
- Play calming images on your computer or television – This is something I stumbled on one day, and it stuck. Once, I was on a call when my screen saver started showing a montage of calming nature scenes. They didn’t distract me from the call, but gave me a relaxing visual break. Now, I’ll intentionally have a nature slideshow on while I am on a stressful call to help me stay calm and positive.
- Send a follow-up email – If you promised to send the interviewer extra materials or information, make sure that you do so as soon as you can. I personally think anywhere within 24-hours is fine, but that depends on the content you agreed to send. If it’s writing samples and portfolio work it shouldn’t be that hard. If you said you would send more references, that might take a bit longer to pull together. No matter what, I like to send my interviewer a thank you email that fills in any gaps they had questions about during our chat.
Remember, a phone interview can be a great way to show your skills and your personality. While face-to-face interviews may feel more concrete, you still have plenty of chances to convince your interviewer that you are the candidate they need to hire while talking on the phone. All while getting the advantage of having the call in a relaxing environment surrounded by the materials that you need. Embrace the phone interview process, it’s a critical step toward getting the job you want!
What are your go-to phone interview secrets? If you’re an interviewer, what are your pet-peeves when talking to candidates over the phone? Share your phone interview thoughts and tips in the comments below!