5 Proven Techniques to Nail Your Next Phone Interview

The phone might seem old-fashioned. But, the phone is still used today for important business like conducting job interviews and phone-screen calls.

A telephone interview is a common way for a company to get a high-level feel for candidates who applied for an open position before inviting them in for an in-person interview. These “phone-screen” interviews are typically more high-level. Be prepared to discuss your experience and qualifications related to the job opening.

These calls are usually scheduled beforehand, allowing you to prepare for the call. You may get a call out of the blue, but impromptu interview calls are uncommon (and, in my opinion, highly unprofessional).

It’s critically important to put your best foot forward during your phone interview. This is the first (and hopefully not the last!) time the company interacts with you. It’s your time to shine.

Make the call work in your favor. Here’s how.

5 Techniques to Nail Your Phone Interview

Technique #1: Have notes available

The significant advantage of a telephone interview is that you can keep various notes right in front of you during the interview (this would be awkward during an in-person interview!).

Your notes should include the job requirements, your resume, a few questions that you want to ask the interviewer at the end (always ask questions at the end of your interview), and high-level details about the company. These details can help you ask better questions.

Be familiar with your notes before the interview. Don’t rummage through papers during the call because that will make you look unprepared. Only have available what you need, and make sure your notes are easy to read and accessible.

Technique #2: Stand up during the call

Believe it or not, standing up during your phone interview will make you sound more confident and engaging. Whenever I’m on an important call, I stand and walk around rather than sit still. I also talk with my hands, even on the phone. Again, standing, walking, and using your hands will help you sound more forceful and confident.

If you can’t stand, at least sit with proper posture. Yes, your interviewers can tell just by the sound and inflection of your voice if you’re slouching or seem bored.

In addition, avoid using filler words on the call (words like “Umm”, “You know”, etc.). These words can kill your credibility on the call, mainly if you use them all the time. Instead, speak slowly and enunciate when appropriate. Remember that your phone interview isn’t a race. There’s no need to speed through your answers and stumble over your words.

Also, just smile. It’s true, smiling over the phone will give your voice an upbeat tone.

Technique #3: Prevent distractions and background noises

Find a quiet room in your home and make sure your family knows that you’re interviewing over the phone. Background noises distract everyone on the call (including you!), and too much noise can prevent you from interviewing well and getting the job. Whenever possible, use a closed-off room with a locking door.

In addition, resist the temptation to use a speakerphone. Speaker phones are notorious for bad audio quality and they commonly make you sound distant or echo-y when talking. Speakerphones will also more easily pick up on background noises. Instead of a speakerphone, just speak into your phone as you usually would. Using a headset, make sure the headset’s audio quality is top-notch.

Technique #4: Control your mute button!

Many of us use the mute feature on our phones when we aren’t actively talking but forget to unmute ourselves when we’re ready to speak. This is especially true during remote video conferences and applies when interviewing over the phone.

If you need to mute your phone during the conversation, pay special attention to unmuting yourself before answering a question. This will help you avoid awkward silences when the interviewers expect you to answer a question.

Technique #5: Let the interviewer lead the conversation

The advantage of in-person interviews is the visual feedback you’ll get by observing your interviewers and their body language during the discussion. This visual feedback is a great way to control the flow of conversation by avoiding talking over one another. Naturally, we don’t get that advantage over the phone.

To help prevent awkward silences or inadvertently interrupting your interviewers, let them do the talking and only respond to a question after they’re done asking the question. Note that there may be more than one interviewer on the line, so be sure to wait before answering a question to avoid talking over anyone else on the call.

In conclusion, the phone interview is generally your first exposure to the employer. Your goal is to make it count by coming across as confident and excited. If this is a phone-screen interview, your next step will probably be an in-person interview. Congratulations if you get to that point, and here are 11 tips to help you ace that interview.

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Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.