How to Ace a Phone Interview (Career Expert Tips)

by Belinda Elliott

Sometimes the first step in your interview process will be a phone interview. Before job applicants are invited to meet with interviewers in person, a company will often use phone interviews to narrow down their choices. 

This means a key skill for job seekers is to know how to ace a phone interview. 

Your mission: acing phone interview. No sweat! We’ve got you covered. Let’s explore the key things you should know.

What is a phone interview?

Phone interviews help companies quickly meet with a large selection of applicants to decide which ones they would like to invite for in-person interviews. 

According to LinkedIn, 57 percent of companies use phone interviews to screen candidates. These interviews may be conducted by a member of the human resources department, or by the hiring manager. 

Phone interviews are just as important as in-person interviews, so you want to prepare well for them.

Since they are a screening tool, making a great impression during your phone interview will be the key to being allowed to move forward, whether you’re looking to work for a startup, a temp agency, or perhaps a recession proof job.

When I’ve conducted phone interviews in the past for companies, I was looking for people who met the basic requirements, seemed enthusiastic about the position and could communicate clearly. 

Most of the time, phone interviews will be pre-scheduled. However, some employers may call without notice to conduct a short impromptu interview. 

This is rare, but if it happens it is okay to ask if you can schedule a time when it is better for you to talk.

What should I prepare for a phone interview?

As a career coach, I’m often asked how to prepare for a phone interview.

The short answer is that you should prepare just as you would for any other interview with the latest tips for finding a job. There are just a few special nuances to keep in mind. 

Prepare Your Location

Since the interviewer is only hearing your voice, you want to focus on sounding upbeat, friendly and excited about the position. You also want to make sure you are in a quiet location free from distractions. 

I once did a phone interview in my car because it was during the work day and I knew that would be a quiet place where I would not be interrupted. I parked at a site away from my workplace, and it went great!

If you know about the interview ahead of time, let others in the household know that you are expecting the call. 

Or, if the call will be coming to your cell phone, make sure you are in a location that has a strong cell signal. Turn off any notifications that could make noise or distract you. 

Prepare Your Resources

Gather your resume, some talking points, a pen and notepad, and any questions that you have about the position. 

You want all the resources you need to be within easy reach. Also, keep a glass of water nearby in case you need it. 

Tactic for Success

Focus on professionalism during your phone interview. The way you answer the phone and your tone during the conversation are important. Remember to smile. Express appreciation for the interviewer’s time, and show enthusiasm for the job. Dressing professionally can help you transition into work mode–so change out of those pajamas!

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Trend on the Rise

Glassdoor reports that on average, each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes, and only four to six of these candidates will be called for an interview. If you are one of them – whether in person or on the phone – this is a great first step! Thorough preparation will be the key to making yourself stand out.

How do you nail a phone interview? 

The keys to having a great phone interview are much like those for in-person interviews. 

steps-to-ace-a-phone-interview

Follow these steps to ace your next phone interview:

  • Research the company and position – Become very familiar with what the company does and the basics of the position you are seeking.
  • Determine some talking points – Think about questions you may be asked and develop some answers. You should be able to talk about your strengths, weaknesses, experience, and why you want the position.
  • Be ready to answer “Tell me about yourself.” – You will most likely be asked some version of this question. Prepare a concise statement about your past work experience and why you are seeking this position.
  • Practice your answers – While you don’t want your answers to sound memorized, you do want to be sure you can deliver them smoothly. The only way to accomplish this is to practice. 
  • Work to build a rapport – You want to come across as friendly and positive. Smile as you answer and show interest in the person who is interviewing you. 
  • Ask questions if given the opportunity – Asking the interviewer questions can show interest. Ask what the interviewer enjoys about the company or what makes someone in this role successful.

Tactic for Success

Be prepared to discuss salary. This is not the stage to negotiate salary, but employers are looking to weed out candidates who are not in their budgeted range. Research salaries for the position you are seeking and note a broad range that would meet your expectations. Emphasize that you plan to consider the compensation package as a whole, including any benefits.

After the Interview

Just as you would for an in-person interview, get the name of your interviewer and follow up with a nice thank-you email. 

Express that you appreciated their time, enjoyed speaking with them, and look forward to future conversations. 

Wrapping Up

Like all job interviews, phone interviews may create some anxiety, but don’t worry too much. Spend time thoroughly preparing and you will do great!

About the Author

Photo of author
Belinda has been a professional writer for more than 20 years and serves as a career coach in her community helping job seekers with all aspects of their job search. Her educational credentials include a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a master’s in journalism.