Five Tips to Help You Do Well In a Phone Interview

It’s easy to not take a phone interview seriously until it’s too late.  Oftentimes we shrug it off as something we can accomplish during our lunch hour on a park bench, but the phone interview part of the job hunt ought to be taken more seriously.  After all, how can you expect a company to consider you a worthy candidate for a position if you can’t seem to communicate effectively via voice alone?

In fact, for my last job prior to becoming self-employed, the phone interview ended up being the most important aspect of the entire hiring process. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back at the experience I’m glad I didn’t just try to wing it and took it as if I was meeting face to face. And although a phone interview seems easier since you might be in a comfortable environment, it can actually be much more difficult since you don’t have the opportunity to see the facial expressions and reactions by the interviewers. These visual clues can be important in helping you determine how to answer the questions based on the reactions you’re receiving.

woman on the phone

Whether you’re speaking with human resources personnel at a posh downtown law firm or following up on a cold email lead, here are five tips to help you tackle that upcoming phone interview:

Dress appropriately: There may not seem to be much of a point to dressing up for a phone interview, but doing so can have a profound effect on the way you carry yourself.  You will feel more professional, and thus project a more professional demeanor.  Wearing sweatpants and an old shirt will only make you feel like a desperate job hunter, even if you’re not consciously thinking that way. Just try it. It only takes a few minutes to throw on a nice shirt and some pants, and it could help you come across better on the phone.

Lay out your resume and other relevant information: While you’ve probably already planned to have your resume on-hand along with other pertinent information, make sure to have your papers laid out on a desk for easy viewing.  The noise of shuffling paper can easily overpower your voice over the phone, as well as make you seem less organized. And the more information the better. This is one benefit of the phone interview because you can have a ton of information at your fingertips that you couldn’t in person like the company’s website, information about the interviewers, and so on. Use this to your advantage.

Stay seated: Pacing back and forth is a common habit among people undergoing a job interview, but visual distractions as well as being away from pertinent information can result in awkward pauses and lost train of thought.  Make an effort to stay in one place throughout the duration of your interview, preferably at a desk or table. If you are a wanderer, just try to stay in one room at least.

Eat a light meal beforehand: You’re going to need to eat a meal in order to have the energy for focus, but you want to avoid feeling sluggish and sleepy as well.  The Goldie Locks solution is to eat a light meal an hour or so prior to your interview. Even better, if you are in the position set the time of the interview, use that to your advantage and pick a time where you feel you’re at your best. If you’re a morning person, schedule something shortly after breakfast. If you shine later in the day, consider shooting for an afternoon interview.

Avoid caffeine: While valued for its ability to increase alertness, caffeine also increases your heart rate and anxiety.  On the telephone that can lead to panting, crackled pronunciation, and reduced speaking skills in general.  It’s best to skip caffeine prior to a phone interview and to instead opt for other methods of accomplishing improved focus. That doesn’t mean you need to abstain from your morning coffee entirely, but try not to load up on it in the hour or two leading up to your interview.

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of a phone interview by-way of failing to properly prepare yourself.  But by adhering to the tips above you’re likely to navigate this part of the job hunting process as successfully as possible.  By doing so, you’ll ultimately increase your chances of finding employment.

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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.

1 comments
Veronica @ Pelican on Money
Veronica @ Pelican on Money

It's the first I'm hearing of caffeine tip! Though I've never had a phone interview, these are some nice tips to read over when the time comes. Thank you Jeremy!

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