As I searched for a job after I graduated college, I was navigating a new kind of hiring process. In my previous experiences, I would receive a request for a face-to-face interview, and they either hired me or they didn’t. I became used to excelling in those types of interviews, and thought my job search would be easy. It wasn’t. For the first time in my life, employers were requesting a phone interview instead of in-person. This meant all my face-to-face skills were worthless, as my interviewer couldn’t see my body language or facial expressions. A phone interview is structured differently from an in-person interview. So here’s what you need to know to ace one.
Set up the ideal environment.
If you’ve never had a phone interview, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You schedule a specific time for a phone call, and the interviewer asks you questions over the phone. More and more employers use phone interviews as a preliminary screening process before you advance to in-person interviews. This means you need to give yourself the best possible setup so nothing goes wrong.
Make sure you’re in an environment that’s conducive to the interview. If you know certain areas of your home don’t get strong phone service, avoid those areas. Pick a place with a strong signal, and tell your friends/roommates/etc. that you have a phone interview so they won’t disturb you. Make sure there isn’t a lot of background noise, and that your environment is free from distractions. A phone interview can also give you an advantage with its setting, because you can do it from a comfortable, familiar environment, boosting your confidence!
Do research before your phone interview.
Look into the organization you’re interviewing with beforehand. Phone interviews often include more in-depth questions related to what the organization does. I started to research the organizations I was interviewing with, taking notes on their recent work, knowing their mission statement, and some of their background.
While a phone interview is sometimes difficult, it also gives you an advantage. You can have your notes with you, without your interviewer knowing! That being said, you know yourself more than anyone else. If notes will distract you more than they’ll help you, don’t have them during the interview (but you should still do research).
Practice, practice, practice!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice before a phone interview. When I didn’t practice, I discovered that I gave far too many vague or general answers when the interviewer was looking for specifics. I said “like” and “um” gratuitously, but I never had that issue with in-person interviews. I treated phone interviews like a casual conversation, which impacted interviewers’ impressions of me. However, when I started asking friends and family members to ask me mock phone interview questions I found on Google, my responses drastically improved. It felt awkward, but I truly believe it helped me. I started getting calls for second interviews.
A phone interview is a format many college students lack experience with. This is why it’s so important to know your advantages and disadvantages with this format, and how to improve your chances. If you take steps to ensure you are well-prepared, you dramatically increase your odds of getting that coveted second interview!