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How to Ace a Phone Interview

 

Phone interviews are not the same as in-person interviews. So much human communication is non-verbal! You may need to acquire a few new skills to pull off a great job interview over the phone.

 

Do:

  • Smile while you speak. It may feel silly, but smiling shows up in your voice.
  • Stand up. It removes pressure from your diaphragm and gives your voice more resonance.
  • Choose a quiet room. No dogs barking, kids whining, music playing, lawnmowers mowing or TV blaring in the background.
  • Tape your resume and whatever notes you’ll use (say, lists of your accomplishments and strengths) on the wall so you can consult them without having to look down, which can muffle your voice.
  • Have pen and paper handy, along with your calendar (maybe they will want to schedule a follow-up).
  • Remember that your interviewer can’t see you. If you pause to make a note, don’t let the silence stretch out. You might say, for example, “Just one second, please, while I write that down.”
  • Whether you use a land or cell line, test your phone connection with a friend. Choose a phone you can hold to your ear comfortably.
  • Do a practice interview with your friend. As if you say “um” a lot (which is even more annoying on a phone than in real life), or if you speak too slowly or quickly, or if your voice is too loud or too soft. Taping yourself is another good way to get an idea of how you come off.
  • Try setting up a mirror in your phone interview room. Sounds crazy, but having a human face to talk to may help you to speak with more passion and conviction.
  • If you have time, just before the call, take a series of long deep breaths. Say a few practice phrases, slowly and in a slightly deeper register than your normal voice.
  • Be prepared. A prospective employer may call when you least expect it. Yes, you can ask to reschedule at a more convenient time but showing you are flexible and can think on your feet is not a bad way to impress people. Keep your phone-interview area set up and ready to go.
  • Close the interview by asking what is the next step.

 

Don’t:

(Most of these should go without saying but let’s say them anyway.)

  • Don’t eat, drink, chew gum, spit tobacco, smoke, sniffle, belch, or blow your nose. If you absolutely must sneeze, hold the phone as far away as possible, briefly apologize, and turn the conversation back to the interview.
  • Don’t put your interviewer on hold to answer an incoming call.
  • Don’t talk to other people in the room. Try to be alone when you’re interviewing.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. This is also true for in-person interviews, but on the phone you lack visual clue to tell you when your listener is zoning out. Practice speaking in two-minute increments (use an egg timer, or timer on your microwave).
  • Don’t interrupt. If you accidentally speak over your interviewer, quickly apologize and let them finish.

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