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What to Say in a Phone Interview

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Phoning it in - the Right Way

A phone interview can be a great alternative to an in-person interview, especially if you’ve got young kids at home and find it tough to arrange child care. Phone interviews usually last 15 to 25 minutes, and while the format is typically similar to talking in person, there are some variables that can work to your advantage. Anticipate and prepare for some commonly-asked interview questions so you’ll know what to say during your conversation.

Pre-Interview Prep

It’s always a good idea to research the company before your interview with them takes place. Check out the company website and do an online search for related news stories. Get a clear understanding of the position requirements by reviewing the job description portion of the job posting. One of the best things about doing a phone interview is that when you’re deciding what to say, you can read from your prep notes or from a computer screen without feeling self conscious.

Tip

Even though the people on the other end of the line can’t see you, wearing business attire during your interview can put you in a professional frame of mind. Also, this may seem silly, but smile when you speak. It will help convey a positive tone.

Planning Your Interview

Plan your phone interview with quiet and privacy in mind. If you’re interviewing from home, make sure kids and pets are being supervised out of earshot and even consider placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your front door. Avoid noisy interview venues like coffee shops, where distractions are plentiful. Finally, if you must do a phone interview while you’re still employed with another company, do it in private on your lunch break.

Tip

If you’re using a cellphone, make sure your battery is fully charged for your phone interview, and turn off notifications that could distract you.

The Conversation

In theory, a phone interview follows the same line of interview questions as an in-person meeting. You’ll be asked to talk about your education and work background, your professional strengths and weaknesses and your time management and problem-solving skills. Keep in mind that in a phone interview you can’t read facial expressions or body language, so listening intently to questions is vital. Also, be sure to speak clearly so you’re fully understood.

Anticipating What to Say

Prepare and practice what you want to say before your phone interview. This approach will result in responses that sound both knowledgeable and natural. Here are some good prompts for commonly-asked questions:

Why do you want to work here?

The company has a great reputation, it’s well respected in the industry and the position sounds both challenging and rewarding.

What are your professional goals?

I'd like to grow professionally with the company, working as part of a cohesive team and earning the opportunity for increasing levels of responsibility over time.

What makes you the ideal candidate?

I’m a self-starter, I enjoy working collaboratively with others, I take great pride in my work and in my interpersonal skills and I’m a reliable and dedicated professional.

Troubleshooting

Phone interviews can be challenging if you’re on speaker phone or talking to multiple people via conference call. If you can’t hear someone, or if you misunderstand a question, don’t hesitate to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t make out that last question. Would you mind repeating it?” Ask in advance if you’re going to be part of a panel interview, and request the names and titles of those you’ll be chatting with. This allows you to reference people by name during the conversation and to follow up with the appropriate people after the interview.

Wrapping Things Up

Allow the interviewer to bring the call to a conclusion. You can generally tell that the conversation is being guided to its end when you’re asked if you have questions. Always have a few well-placed queries prepared to show you’ve done your research and are familiar with the company. Questions might include:

  • Can you describe what an average day looks like in this position? 
  • How would you best describe your corporate culture? 
  • What do employees like most about being part of this company? 

Be sure to thank the interviewer for her time and indicate that you’re looking forward to hearing from the company again. Follow up with a written email thanks to demonstrate your professionalism.