Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts
Here are some “do’s” and “don’ts” for phone interviews.
- Make sure there are no distractions or things (people, pets, TV/radio) that will create background noise.
- Use a landline if at all possible. If using a cell phone, make sure the phone is charged (or plugged in) and has a strong cell signal in the area you are taking the call. If you are using a cordless phone, make sure the battery is charged.
- Hang a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Let anyone who will be nearby know that you will be on a call and should not be interrupted.
- Take several deep breaths before the call. And do not forget to breathe during the call. This can help lower your voice pitch.
- Go to the bathroom before you get on the call.
- Be on time for a phone interview. Ensure you are ready when the scheduled time arrives.
- Ask the interviewer at the beginning of the call how long they have scheduled for the interview. This will help you pace yourself.
- Acknowledge if you have a strong accent, lisp, or anything that may make it difficult for the interviewer to understand you. Tell the interviewer, “Let me know if you have any trouble understanding me, and I will be happy to repeat the information.”
- Smile. It can help to look in a mirror while you interview — this will help ensure you are expressing emotion. It can be helpful for you to put a sticky note somewhere to remind yourself to smile.
- Let your enthusiasm come through in your voice. However, be mindful of your tone and volume. Limit “uhhs,” ‘umms,” and “you knows” in your responses.
- Slow down. When you are nervous, you are likely to talk faster, which makes you more difficult to understand. So talk a bit slower than you normally would.
- Listen carefully to the question you are being asked before answering. Wait until the interviewer has finished asking the question before you answer. And make sure you understand the question before you begin answering. Use facts in your answers. Be specific with your achievement, statistics, and numbers.
- Keep your answers brief and to the point. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a phone interview is not knowing when to stop talking. Without seeing the interviewer, it can be hard to know that that he or she is losing interest in what you are saying. So answer briefly, but use verbal cues. For example, “Do you want to know more?”
- Even during a phone interview, be mindful of your posture. One trick that can help give you energy is to stand up or walk around during the phone interview. Sit while the interviewer is talking, so you can take notes. But stand when you are responding. It allows you to breathe from your diaphragm, which helps you project your voice.
- Take a job interview phone call at work or at Starbucks. Make sure you are someplace quiet to take the call.
- Interrupt your interviewer. Make sure he or she has finished asking the question before you answer. Wait a second or two before answering.
- Never put your interviewer on hold to answer another call. Ignore call waiting (if you have it) — or disable it, if possible.
- Be too “casual” or “informal” in your conversation. This is still a job interview!
- Never chew gum or eat anything during a phone interview.
- Eliminate “uptalk.” This is a nervous habit where you end a declarative statement with an intonation that makes it sound like a question. (Tape recording your interview can be a good way to identify if this is something you do.)
- Avoid using your phone’s speakerphone feature on a phone interview. Not only can a speakerphone create an echo, but it also picks up more background noise (such as shuffling papers).
- If you take notes, do not take them on your computer. The sound of typing is distracting. Have a pen and paper to take notes.
- Restrain yourself. If you are an animated speaker in person — for example, you use your hands while speaking —it is fine to use your hands. The interviewer cannot see them anyway. Using your hands will help make the interview feel more like a natural conversation.
- Use the “mute” button on your phone for the first time on a job interview call. The mute button can eliminate distracting noise (for example, if you must take a drink of water). You will want to have practiced using it before the call so you do not accidentally mute yourself while you want to be talking.
- Avoid bringing up salary, benefits, or reporting structure (who you would report to) on a phone interview. Save that for an in-person interview. But do be prepared to answer the salary question if you are asked
- Placing an empty chair near you when you are interviewing. “Talk” to the empty chair as if there was a real person sitting there.
- Eating a cough drop (especially one with menthol) before the call. A medicated cough drop can help your voice. (But make sure you finish the cough drop before you get on the call!)
- Calling from indoors, if you are using a cell phone. Wind can create noise on the line with a cell phone.
Next, we will look at Video Interviews