Prepping for a Job Interview on the Phone

by Keith Griffin,

An English professor in college used to tell me, “Get dressed up for your exams. If you feel good, you will do better on your tests.” While I never put on tails and a top hat, I did follow his advice and so should you when prepping for a phone interview for a job.

It’s so tempting when conducting business over the phone – especially from your home – to adapt a less-than-professional demeanor. Danny Roberts, a recruiter for Redfin, a technology-powered real estate brokerage, offers these six tips for top performance on a phone interview. (Plus, there’s a bonus tip.)

  • Master Your Vocabulary
  • Answer the Right Phone
  • Don’t Multitask
  • Pull Over
  • Be Prepared
  • Line Up Your Own Questions
  • Stand Up Straight

OK, let’s start with number seven just because it’s advice. Even your posture can come across on the phone. To sound the most professional, consider standing while talking. As one site on sales techniques advises (but it’s germane here because you are selling yourself), “To inject more energy into your voice, try standing up while you talk on the phone. Standing puts less pressure on your diaphragm and allows you to speak more easily, plus it tends to give you more of an energetic feeling than sitting down.”

That’s actually one instance where the phone interview works to your advantage. You could never stand during a traditional job interview (and actually get hired).

Of course only try this if you are physically capable of standing for 30 minutes. Your voice won’t sound as effective if you become weary.

Roberts also has a good emphasis on vocabulary. He says, “A high percentage of communication is nonverbal (e.g., facial expressions, gestures and eye contact), which can’t be conveyed through the phone. This means the words you use and how you deliver them are more important than usual.” Also, use appropriate jargon but only if you’re confident in its use.

Answer the right phone sounds basic but it’s not. Roberts says sometimes candidates suggest a home phone number and then sit waiting by their cell phone. Or, a cell phone isn’t charged. Don’t let the call go to voicemail by mistake. And, don’t answer your phone five minutes before through five minutes after the scheduled appointment.

Here’s one additional tip along those lines. If your phone interview is a conference call, be the first on the call. Log in at least five minute early just like you would show up for a job interview ahead of time.

Whatever you do, focus on the phone call. Don’t check Facebook (or do a status update exclaiming, “I’m interviewing with ABC Widgets right now!) Close your browsers and only keep open documents you need like your resumé.

Also, don’t interview and drive at the same time. You will do neither well. Find a nice, quiet place to park, preferably in the shade. Make sure you’re comfortable, especially if you can’t stand during the interview.

Do your homework is basic advice for any interview but the advantage here is you can have documents spread in front of you that detail what the company is all about. You have an advantage in a phone interview because you can have material handy that you wouldn’t normally bring with you to an interview.

Be prepared, as the Boy Scouts like to say, with lots of questions about the company. That’s obviously true of any interview but the advantage of a phone interview is you can have your questions written out in front of you. It makes you sound prepared without looking over prepared.

Keep in mind that a phone interview is like an in-person interview but a little easier. Play to your strengths.

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