How to Nail the Phone Interview

When you’re in the market for a new job, first impressions matter. And most of the time, your opportunity to make that stellar first impression will be over the phone.

Whether it’s an initial call with a recruiter, or a second-round interview with the hiring manager, preparation is key. Your job is to convince the voice on the other side of the phone to give you the chance to meet in person. Here’s your guide to nailing it.

Confirm the details.
Congrats! You received an email inviting you to a phone interview. Now, make sure you have all the details. Who will call whom? On what number? Don’t forget to double-check the date and time zone, too. Then, respond with a short and sweet message confirming everything. You may write something like:

Hi [Name],

I am looking forward to connecting with you on Friday, June 22nd at 2:00 pm ET to discuss the [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. You can reach me at (123) 456-7890. I look forward to our conversation.

Best regards,

This will show your attention to detail and help build a positive impression before you even speak a single word.

Find a quiet spot.
Now that you’ve confirmed when the call is, you need to figure out where you’re going to take it. If you’re currently employed, taking the call may be tricky. If you drive to work, heading to the parking lot to take the call from your car may be a safe bet, depending on how noisy your surroundings are. If you can’t leave the building, book a conference room. That feels dishonest, you say—but this is the reality of today’s job market. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 51 percent of U.S. employees are either “searching for a new job or watching for openings.” So if it makes you feel any better, your colleagues are probably taking interviews at work, too.

When the time comes for the call, answer the phone by identifying yourself. Saying,“Hi, this is [name],” quickly lets the interviewer know they have reached the right person, and helps you both avoid an awkward name mispronunciation situation.

Do your homework.
A phone interview should be approached with the same level of preparation as you would an in-person interview. Familiarize yourself with the company ahead of time, and jot down major facts to keep handy during your call. Knowing the CEO’s name and amount of years they have served, cities where the company headquarters and major offices are located, years in business and number of employees can set you apart from another candidate. You’ll get bonus points if you’re clearly able to articulate an interesting story about the company that’s relevant to your position—things like a major ad campaign, a charitable donation or innovative product launch.

Of course, you’ll be excited to share your knowledge and the research you’ve put in, but try to make it sound natural. Don’t ramble or interrupt your interviewer; instead, take your time answering questions thoroughly in a manner that showcases your ability to find relevant information and use it appropriately.

Sell yourself.
In addition to knowing fast facts about the company, you should also brush up on fast facts about yourself! Print out the job description and write down examples next to each requirement to jog your memory as you speak. Keep your resume handy as well, with relevant projects, statistics and accomplishments highlighted.

Most interviewers will ask a few basic questions—things like: “Can you walk me through your work experience?” and “How did you get to where you are now?” You should be able to explain your career progression in under a minute.

You should also consider preparing SOARs—that’s Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results. SOARs are stories which illustrate your problem-solving skills. They will help you with the dreaded “Tell me about a time you solved a problem at work” type questions. Check out this example from an HR professional.

Another good idea is to list a few words that describe you, in response to the common (read: overused) question,“How would your co-workers describe you?” Keep calm and create a list of a few powerful adjectives ahead of time to avoid being caught off-guard, and be prepared to give a brief “why” as well.

Ask questions.
There are two questions in life where the answer is always yes. The first: “Do you have room for dessert?” The second: “Do you have any more questions for me about this position?” Yes and yes.

If most of your questions were covered during the discussion, be sure to mention that, but then follow-up with at least one more question. Some examples of questions to ask include: Is this a new role, or will I be replacing someone? If it’s a replacement role, why did the previous employee leave? Is there opportunity to develop leadership skills? Who will I be reporting to? Has the hiring manager led a team before?

Be gracious.
If your scheduled time comes and goes without the interviewer calling you, be gracious, always. It’s annoying, especially when you spend time preparing for it, but you never know what the interviewer has going on that day. Wait 15 minutes, then send a polite email saying:

Hi [Name],

I’m following up on our scheduled phone conversation for 2:00 p.m. ET today, regarding the [Job Title]  position. I’m available until 3:00 p.m. today, but am happy to reschedule for another time. Please let me know what works best.


With  a little luck  some preparation using these steps, you may be finding yourself preparing for round 2, in person!

Photo byAlexander Andrews

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