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7 Phone Interview Tips to Get You Ahead

7 Phone Interview Tips to Get You Ahead
Credit: LOFTFLOW/Shutterstock

Hiring a new employee is often a multi-step process for most companies. Rather than investing time in an in-person interview up front, hiring managers often add a phone interview in between to screen candidates they think would be an appropriate fit.

"With the [number] of job seekers applying for roles, conducting a phone interview or phone screen upfront saves both the company and candidates time and money up front," said Chris Jemo, vice president of talent acquisition at The Connor Group, which owns and operates luxury apartment communities.

Though it's an important step, a phone call is limiting. As the candidate, you should prepare for this step to solidify your spot for an in-person interview with the hiring manager.

"The biggest disadvantage [of a phone interview] is the lack of face-to-face interaction," said Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Resource Center at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business. "Interviewers don't get to see how you present yourself, so what you say and how you say it is so important. Your tone of voice and how you respond to and ask questions will indicate your interest and passion for the role, organization and industry."

Here's how to properly navigate phone interviews: [5 Interview Skills That Will Get You Hired]

When called or emailed to schedule time to interview via phone, ask with whom you'll be talking and how long the call will take, Trnka said. Get the name and contact information of the person who is scheduling the interview, and find out who will be making the call.

Trnka cautioned against interviewing on the spot. If you are called and told that the company's rep wants to ask a few questions now, thank them for the opportunity, and then politely suggest a different time later in the day. This will give you time to collect your thoughts and refocus on the role, company, and your skills and talents, she said.

The day before or the morning of the interview, Trnka advised emailing the person who scheduled the call to confirm it. Not only will this help you to prepare, but it also demonstrates that you are organized and that you are looking forward to the opportunity to talk about the role and your contributions the company's success. 

The beauty of a phone interview is that you can have notes with you, said Kaitlyn Apfelbeck, human resources manager at Voices.com, a voiceover marketplaceReview the job description thoroughly before the interview; make notes so you can talk about the experiences you have that align with the requirements and expectations of the role. Even if it is a phone screen, you will want to sound intelligent about the opportunity and company.

"Write down major themes you know you’ll want to touch on, such as strengths, weaknesses, career goals, etc., and then have points under each," Apfelbeck said.

Just before your scheduled call, make sure you have everything you've sent to an employer — your resume, cover letter, portfolio, etc. — on hand and organized, so you can refer to them during the interview, Trnka said.

Treat it as an in-person interview. Be somewhere quiet without distraction or background noise. 

"Be [in your chosen quiet location] least five minutes prior to the scheduled time to be prepared," Jemo said. 

Apfelbeck added that you should also avoid doing the interview in the car, especially if you're driving.

"[Talking in the car] is loud, and very distracting to the interviewer," shesaid. "It's also incredibly dangerous. Needless to say, there is a lack of overall unpreparedness that is not in a candidate's favor."

With a phone interview, you don't have to worry about non-verbal cues like body language or appearance, so it's much easier to relax and focus on giving strong, confident answers to the interviewer's questions.

"Companies want the best fit for both you and them," Jemo said. "If you are yourself, the chances of the job being the best fit for both parties and working long term significantly increases."

At the end of the call, ask what the next steps will be if you're a successful candidate, Apfelback said. Shealsosuggestedasking abouta specific timeline so you know when to look for the next set of communications.

Don't hang up the phone without saying thank you, either.

"Express gratitude for the opportunity to speak with someone at the company," Apfelbeck said. "Even if you’re not sure how the interview went, it's best to have good manners and thank the interviewer for taking the time to chat with you."

While it's customary to send an emailed thank you letter within 24 hours following an in-person interview, sending one after a phone interview will really demonstrate your interest in the position.

Got the in-person interview? Use these helpful tipsto impress the hiring manager.

Additional reporting by Nicole Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Shannon Gausepohl

Shannon Gausepohl graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in journalism. She has worked at a newspaper and in the public relations field. Shannon is a zealous bookworm, has her blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and loves her Blue Heeler mix, Tucker.