How to Nail the Phone Interview

Adrianna Wu

The phone screen is the bridge between sending in a resume and performing a live interview. It provides a window into what kind of employee you are, a look at your behavioral tendencies, and an opportunity for the employer to get excited for the official interview. However, it can break a candidate– the employer may decide that you aren’t the right fit. This is why it is paramount to nail the phone screen.

The benefit of the phone-interview is that you could be lounging in your pajamas on your living room sofa, and still have the professionality of a formally conducted live interview. No matter what your situation, you should sound like you are sitting in an office dressed in slacks and a tie. There should be no children screaming, no dogs barking, no TV programs- no interruptions.

If you are expecting a phone call, have a designated space to run to as soon as the phone rings. This room should have a lock, have room for pacing or sitting, and most importantly, be somewhere you feel relaxed.

When answering your interviewer, conciseness and clarity create the perfect response. Avoid euphemisms and give a clear-to-follow answer. The goal is to create the largest amount of impact using the least amount of words. Use loaded words– strong words that evoke an emotion or sentiment– to create the mood of your response with less effort.

The quality of your response is also judged on the promptness of your response– it shows the employer that you can think on your feet. A quick answer also proves the legitimacy of your claims– that you’re not making it up on the spot. However, don’t be afraid to take a couple seconds to think before you speak. If you are caught off guard by a question, ask them to repeat it. After hearing it the second time and your mind is still drawing a blank, take your time. White noise is always better than stammering or a long chain of “um’s” and “uh’s”.

What happens if you miss the phone call? Eric Chen, an associate professor of business administration at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, gives insight on the matter. Because you missed the first call, it is crucial to exemplify your dedication to the job. “You return the call that same day even if you are returning it back to another voicemail,” says Chen. “At 7, 8, 9, 10 p.m. just say you’re sorry but you got the message and want to talk tomorrow.” Making the extra effort, even after business hours, will put you ahead of the game.


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