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Tips for the Phone Interview


Robby

More and more firms are doing an phone interview (also called a “phone screen”). I have talked to several job seekers in Central Indiana lately who find these experiences make them nervous. How can be great over the phone and move to the next step?

Phone Call
© Flickr User Andrew Wippler

Step 1: Know Your Audience

This is Indiana. It’s the Midwest. People use the phone differently in different parts of the country, and there are even studies that show regional preferences. If you’re doing a phone screen for a local company, act accordingly. If you’re doing it for one headquartered elsewhere, ask friends or family—or call the front desk—to get a sense for how they talk.

Step 2: Practice With Friends, Then Strangers

If you’re not doing mock interviews, you’re missing out on the chance to get better at interviewing. These days, it seems people don’t make personal phone calls as much as they used to (because we have texting!) You can do a mock interview with a friend, but it’s even better to ask a friend for someone you don’t know to help out. That way, you’re simulating the experience.

Step 3: Get Good at Brief Responses

When we get nervous, we ramble. Set a silent timer to answer questions on your end so you wrap up done in 30 to 60 seconds. If you reach the 2 minutes, stop stop stop stop!

By doing this consistently, you’ll be able to answer concisely and give complete thoughts. And if the interviewer wants more than a one minute answer, they will say “tell me more.” That gives you more latitude.

Step 4: Prime the Pump with Good Words

Write down a bunch of words you want to use before the interview on a big white board or sheet of paper, such as: “accomplishment”, “challenge”, “opportunity”, and “excited.” Also if you have a story or two ready, have a word or two written down as a reminder of what it is.

Step 5: Take the in a Quiet Place With a Good Connection

If you can, try to take the call NOT on a cellphone. If you have to, make sure you have a full charge and you are in a space with great coverage.

It’s best to do a phone interview somewhere that you know you won’t be distracted. A coffeeshop can be noisy. You can be stopped in you car somewhere, but a siren might come by. Try to be at home. And make sure that you have someone with you in the next room that can prevent you from being interrupted, or that you are alone.

Step 6: Stand Up, And Use Mute

Don’t sit down for a call. Stay standing so that you have good energy. Remember the person can’t see you and they only have your voice to go on, and being on your feet will help you have a sense of direction.

Also, consider using the mute button aggressively. That is, when the interviewer is talking, keep the phone on mute so you can write notes, cough, or make other sounds. You’ll want to practice turning mute on and off.


Phone screens are an essential part of the modern hiring process. Be ready, and be great!

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About the Blogger:

Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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