How to Ace a Phone Interview

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Phone interviews. They’re popular these days. Companies are using phone interviews as the first phase of the interview process now more than ever. This is in part due to the sheer amount of volume of applications they receive. Well that poses a problem for you. It’s no secret its rough these days to land that cushy job. However, with a little bit of preparation and some practice, you may just make it to that in person interview after all.

a man in a suit with an iphone
Phone Interviews can be stressful but they are the norm in the modern age of the interview process. Photo credit via kev-shine

A little while back I landed an interview. Everything was in order, my resume, my education, I was the perfect fit for this job and vice versa. Then the phone rang. The interview started off great. My mild mannered stern voice and confidence shined through. The conversation flowed and things were looking great. Brand new job here I come. Then came the technical questions and the record screech.
Knowledge I have, questions I knew, I just couldn’t answer. I stuttered and stumbled to form a cohesive statement. For every 1 question I knew, I had two that caused me to spit out several “hmms” and made me hold back clearing my throat in hesitation.  So allow me if I may, to use my phone interview strikeout, to help you hit a homer the next time you’re up at the plate of employment.

Tip #1 – Speak Confident:
This may be given but it’s too important to just assume any young gun already knows it. You’re the man (or woman) you know this job so act like you do. Don’t start every sentence with “hmm”. Think before you speak and resist that reflex to start every sentence with that three letter ticket to unemployment. Speak loud and at a good pace. You don’t want your interviewer to ask you to repeat yourself and you certainly don’t want to speed right through an answer as if you rehearsed it several times. Companies want human beings, not robots.

Tip #2 – Create a cheat sheet:
This is where I landed flat on my face, but I’m handing you a parachute with this one so you’ll land nice and safe. Research your position, read the description on the posting thoroughly. There are many places online you can find questions that were previously asked for similar positions. Create yourself a cheat sheet and have it at the ready for when the interview starts. Bullet points will do just fine. Again, you want the ideas there written in front of you, not a well-rehearsed robotic answer. This goes for tasks you may know how to do but just need a visual remainder to full on Bill Buckneresque chokes.

Tip #3 – Location Location Location:
Okay so this job interview may not be for real estate, but location is key here no matter what. Find a nice quiet place you won’t be bothered and plant yourself right there to wait for opportunity to literally ring. Now life happens I know. Sometimes it isn’t possible to get an ideal location at a home so quiet you can hear a Prius start its engine. You may have kids or you may have stepped out from your current job to the parking lot where a train goes ripping by as you are trying to intently listen to the next question…not that that happened to me. However, if environmental distractions cannot be avoided, do your best to keep them to a minimal and politely tell your potential boss that the connection broke in and out and you need him or her please repeat the question. This sounds a lot more professional then “sorry my annoying son is screaming nonsense in my face what’d you say.”.

Tip #4 – Know your weaknesses:
Nobody knows everything. It’s okay to stumble on a question you may have missed in preparation or just simply do not know the answer to. When I stumbled in my most recent interview I acknowledged the fact that this may be an area I need more extensive training and hands-on in. I also was sure to state that given my current experience and knowledge that I feel I would be able to quickly learn this area of the field if taught. My interviewer commended me for my honestly, reassured me that knowing everything is not possible and the interview continued onward. What looked to be a knife through the heart of this interview turned out to be neutral step at worst, and a Neil Armstrong sized step forward at best. Spinning negative answers into positives is just the kind of thing that can weave you into phase two of this interview process that makes the Oregon Trail look like a hop skip and a jump.

Tip #5 – Have a question at the ready:
Okay, so the interview is winding down and your feeling confident in your performance. Now it’s time to leave a good impression. How the interview ends is crucial as it is proven that humans often remember the beginning and ends of interactions the most. In other words, if you’re going to stumble, do it in the middle of the interview. Just as your confident speaking had you coming out of the corner swinging, a question at the end will allow you to unleash one last flurry against your job seeking opponents. Leaving a lasting impression with a question shows an interviewer that you are engaged and genuinely interested in the company you are applying for. Asks about the company, its plans for growth, its type of clients or what the overall work atmosphere is like. All of these types of questions will help you stand out a little bit more than the standard “no, you’ve answered all the questions I had”.

So buy a suit, shave that stubble and trim that hair. You are now on your way to a face-to-face interview. Good luck my fellow opportunity seekers.

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