How to Ace a Phone Interview: Your 15-Point Checklist

As crucial as it is, many people don’t take phone interviews seriously. But having a job interview over the phone doesn’t doesn’t diminish its importance. After all, how you fare in a phone interview will determine if you’ll proceed to the next step.

In this article, we’ll share 15 tips that will show you how to ace a phone interview. We’ll reveal the best techniques for answering interview questions so you can make a strong, lasting impression. We’ll also share some of the most common interview questions to help you prepare for and land that job.

15 Things You Should Do to Ace a Phone Interview

Preparation is vital in making the best impression on a job interview. As easy as they may sound, phone interviews are as significant as in-person interviews — the company wants to know if you’re worthy of moving on to the next round.

Aside from having a great resume and a solid cover letter, the way you present yourself in a phone interview will help determine if you’ll get the job or not. Here are 15 tips that will show you how to ace a phone interview.

Before the Interview

1. Confirm the Date and Time of the Interview

The first thing you should do is to note the exact date and time of the phone call. Be mindful of time zones and don’t hesitate to clarify all details with the person who sent you the invitation.

The last thing you want is to miss the call simply because you incorrectly scheduled your time. Make sure to set a professional-sounding voicemail message just in case you miss the initial call.

2. Prepare Yourself for the Most Common Questions

Review the job description before the telephone interview and prepare your answers for questions related to the role.

To help you out, at the end of this article we’ve listed some of the most common questions asked during phone interviews.

3. Set Up a Quiet Place for the Phone Interview

Make sure to have a quiet spot for the phone interview. It should be free from background noise and distractions. Also, it’s a good idea to remind family members or other people in the house (if you’ll be interviewing at home) so they can give you privacy. Charge your cell phone and have a copy of your resume ready for reference. Have a glass of water nearby in case your nerves dry your throat out.

4. Prepare Your List of Questions

At some point during the interview, the caller will ask if you have any questions. Make sure to write them down prior to the call so you won’t miss anything. Whether it’s about the job itself, salary expectations, or other details you need to clarify, writing down your own questions ensures you’ll express your thoughts clearly and quickly.

5. Use a Headset or Headphones

Freeing up both your hands during a call lets you take down notes and other relevant information. It also allows you to move more freely and gesticulate the same way you would if you were talking face-to-face with another person. It helps you sound natural.

During the Interview

6. Make a Strong First Impression

They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and it’s true. One way to make an impact is by starting the conversation with a lively introduction. “Hi, this is (your name), thank you for calling. It’s great to speak with you.” Isn’t that better than playing it cool and answering with, “Hello?” Having a friendly opener will demonstrate your professionalism and make a positive impression on the interviewer.

7. Address the Caller by His or Her Title

When in doubt, be formal and address your interview by title and last name (Mr. or Ms. Smith, for example). Only call them by their first name if they ask you to do so.

8. Listen Carefully and Answer Questions Thoughtfully

The most crucial part of any interview is answering the interviewer’s questions with clarity and accuracy while emphasizing your strengths. You can achieve this by actively listening to the questions. Asking the caller to repeat a question or giving a vague answer simply because you weren’t listening could turn off the interviewer and reflect on you negatively. When you speak, don’t be afraid to slow down. Breathe. Be thoughtful and concise with your answers.

9. Jot Down Notes

Keep a pen and notebook handy during the interview. You can use it for writing down essential information or instructions that the caller may give. You can also use it to write down the questions as you hear them, so you don’t have to ask the caller to repeat them. Taking notes ensures your answers will be on point.

10. Never Interrupt the Interviewer

Never interrupt the caller at any point or for any reason during the interview. Let them finish their sentences and don’t get too excited to answer their questions. Cutting them off makes you sound unprofessional and discourteous.

11. Project a Confident Personality Through Your Tone and Voice

Not being able to see you doesn’t mean an interviewer can’t get a feel for your personality and enthusiasm about the job. Smile when you speak — it will reflect in the tone of your voice.

After the Interview

12. Thank the Interviewer

After the interview, thank the caller for their time. Tell them you appreciate the chance to work for the company. Ask if they have any additional questions or need any additional information.

13. Ask for the Interviewer’s Email Address

Don’t forget to ask for the caller’s email address. You’ll need this for sending a thank-you email and for following up (if needed). The thank-you email can also serve as your business card for showing your phone number and link to your LinkedIn account. This way it will be easier for them to reach you should they decide to set up a second interview.

14. Craft a Well-Thought-Out Thank-You Email

After the interview (preferably within the day), send out a quick thank-you note to the interviewer.

Tell them you appreciate their time and highlight topics from the conversation. It’s also an excellent time to emphasize your enthusiasm for the role and the company.

Be formal in your greeting and closing (use “Dear Mr./Ms.” and “Best regards”), but avoid being too stiff in the body. The goal is to be polite and succinct. Include the job title you’re applying for in the subject line. Check out these sample thank-you emails for reference.

15. Follow Up Accordingly

If you don’t hear from the interviewer or hiring manager within a week, it’s time to send a follow-up email. Don’t feel bad if they don’t contact you right away, and don’t assume that you didn’t get the job. They still might be conducting interviews and in the middle of the hiring process. A follow-up email helps them remember you so they can keep you in mind when they’re ready to make a hiring decision.

How to Answer Phone Interview Questions Like a Pro

Companies conduct phone interviews to learn more about your work history, expertise, personality, enthusiasm for the job, and interpersonal and decision-making skills.

Using these techniques can help you answer questions accurately while at the same time highlighting your skills to let them know you’re the best person for the job.

Be Authentic With Your Answers

Nothing turns off interviewers more than a canned set of answers. Remember, the person you’re speaking with is someone who does this for a living. It means they hear all sorts of responses regularly, which makes them highly aware if you’re blurting out something generic.

You’ve probably called customer service before, haven’t you? How did it feel when they responded with a script that didn’t address your specific question? Chances are it felt frustrating. And that’s precisely how interviewers will feel if you do the same.

Here’s how to avoid it: Be authentic and honest with your answers. Interviewers appreciate it when you respond genuinely and give specific details while making sure to address their questions.

ABC: Always Be Closing

You’ve probably read or heard this acronym before, especially if you have experience in sales. But it can also apply to phone interviews.

ABC means you should be mindful of opportunities when you can nimbly sell yourself as the best person for the job. The best way to do this is to highlight previous experiences that align with the scenario in question.

For example, if they ask how you would handle a specific situation or problem, try to recall a similar event that you were able to fix or improve.

You’ll get to illustrate your decision-making skills while emphasizing your experience.

The STAR Formula

The STAR formula can serve as a quick guide on how to ace a phone interview by framing and answering specific questions.

S – Situation (Scenario/challenge/problem)

T – Task (Responsibilities/What needs to be done)

A – Action (Steps you took)

R – Results

Here’s how it works:

Interviewer: Tell me about a time when you dealt with a challenging problem at work.

Using the STAR formula, here’s how you can frame your answer:

Situation (S): One time, a team member who was tasked to complete an important report got sick and was unable to finish it. Our boss was meeting with potential clients the day my colleague called in sick, which meant we could lose business without that report.

Task (T): Our boss asked the team for help finishing the report. Since I was familiar with it, I volunteered to shoulder most of the task.

Action (A): I called up my sick colleague to ask for a little assistance on the most challenging parts. Thankfully, he was able to provide some guidance. I delegated other parts to the rest of the team while I took care of the most critical areas.

Result (R): We were able to finish the report and handed it to our boss before his meeting. We ended up landing a deal with those clients who ultimately became one of our biggest customers over the years.

The STAR formula helps you craft a thorough and relevant narrative for an answer, almost like a good storyline. And while not all questions can or need to be answered this way, it serves as a great tool to help you with situational-type questions.

The Most Common Phone Interview Questions

The following is a compilation of interview questions that get asked in almost every job interview regardless of industry. Familiarize yourself with them and try to come up with strong answers so you know how to ace a phone interview.

1. Tell me about yourself.

2. What do you do in your current job?

3. What things or tasks do you find the hardest to do in your current role?

4. Can you tell me about why you left your last job?

5. What are you good at?

6. Why do you want to work here?

7. What’s your greatest weakness?

8. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult problem.

9. Why should we hire you?

10. What are your career goals?

Ready for That Phone Interview?

Doing phone interviews can be tricky. In one regard, it’s easier than having a video interview or in-person conversation because you don’t have to worry about how you look. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a phone interview seriously.

Being prepared and following our tips on how to ace a phone interview will give you a much better chance of landing that job offer. Good luck!

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