4 Tips for Acing a Phone Interview

Acing phone interviews

In case you guys didn’t know, lately I have been on a rather manic job hunt. The desperation has set in. There have been tears, sweaty armpits, and a smattering of crushing disappointment. The post-grad job hunt is not a pretty thing. It takes patience, and courage, and perseverance and a willingness to sell your soul just a tiny bit- unless you happen to be in that lucky 2% who got a real, big girl job right out of university. In which case, go away, ’cause clearly you do not need this post’s help.

I just had my first phone interview this afternoon, so I’m not pretending to be an expert. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing most of the time, but I did learn a few things from both my experience and the experience of some of my closest friends who’ve recently been subjected to this experience. I figured I’d share what I got out of it all with you, since most job articles that I was perusing before my interview could only seem to say the painfully obvious. Pro-tip: If you already thought it was an okay idea to eat lunch while on the phone, nevermind during a professional interview for a job you presumably want (or you wouldn’t have applied for it), you may be beyond help. For those of us who already knew that, here’s what I learned:

1. Double check that your phone is fully charged, and make sure you have full signal strength. On the day of my interview, there was a planned power outage in my neighborhood for six hours. My phone didn’t get all the way charged during the night, and was dwindling in battery by the time the power did get turned back on- a mere half hour before the interview. I also had a hard time with the connection when I called someone else the day before, for the first time ever with my phone. I called my parents an hour before from the location I was going to be in just to make sure that I wouldn’t have the same connectivity issues again. It never hurts to double-check.

2. Phone interview promptness is not like face-to-face interview promptness. My interviewer was fifteen minutes late. I’ve had a friend whose interviewer forgot about them altogether and had to email to apologize. I’ve never heard of an interviewer being late for a real, in-person interview, but on the phone, it’s clearly more casual, at least in that way. Don’t sweat it. If they make you wait and you don’t put up a fuss about it, it just looks better on you anyway.

3. Cheat sheets are good, but you can’t anticipate everything. The awesome thing about phone interviews is that you can pre-script your responses to typical questions and sound like you’ve really got it together. I had a handful of interview questions that I was pretty sure might come up, and bullet-point responses, and it was really helpful as a jumping off point, and so that I didn’t get flustered or forget anything. Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate everything. I got thrown questions like, “What kind of people can you work well with/not work well with?” and I got thrown off. “I work well with everyone!” didn’t feel like a full enough answer, so I mumbled something about liking to work with people who had good attitudes, and not liking to work with people who didn’t want to work. Or something. The cheat sheet really helped, but in the end, I still had to think on my feet.

4. Use the speakerphone. I have pretty good ears, but it’s not always easy to hear a stranger’s voice perfectly, especially if they’re talking on a meh-quality office phone. I find that the extra volume boost you get from putting the call on speaker really helps make sure that you don’t have to get the interviewer to repeat things.

Overall, despite a couple unexpected questions, I feel like the preliminary interview went well, and I’d definitely repeat my prep process all over again since it helped. Now, fingers crossed for the job! Do you have any phone interview tips/horror stories to share?


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