Phone Interview Tips: 19 Keys to Landing a Second Interview

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Phone interviews are the first step to getting hired — and it’s a daunting first step for even the most seasoned of job seekers. Here’s our checklist of 19 game-changing phone interview tips for before, after, and during your phone interview.

Before the phone interview

Practice describing your career in 60-90 seconds. You can (and will) always go into more detail about your work experience in follow-up questions from the interviewer, but you should first and foremost make sure to prepare an elevator pitch for your career. Once you’ve written out a compelling (brief) professional narrative, test it on friends to make sure it’s as clear and captivating as possible.

Have projects or examples of your work prepared. Another way to up your game is to have examples or projects that apply more directly with the company or job you’re interviewing with/for.
Example phone interview questions (more super useful practice questions here):
— Describe a project or position you held where you used python.
— Describe a project where you collaborated with other people/teams. What was your biggest hurdle?

Make a brag list.
 In addition to rounding up examples of your work, you should make a list of all of the results and projects you’re most proud of. Talking about how and why you are good at what you do can feel awkward and overzealous. This will help remind you to highlight your successes and also, by documenting your wins, keep them top of mind.

phone interview tips
Research the company and the person interviewing you.
 Before the interview, research the company’s mission statement, recent news (type the company name into Google News), product/service offerings, and funding history (on Crunchbase). You should also take time to research the person interviewing you. Look up their LinkedIn profile, Twitter presence, and find their blog or other publishing writing. Take note of the words they use to talk about what they do, and think about how to talk about what you do in a way that will excite them.

Always have questions prepared to ask the interviewer.  If you’re having trouble thinking of questions to ask OR they answered all of your questions by the end of the interview. Make sure you DO NOT say “No, I don’t have any questions.” In this situation you can always ask the person interviewing you “Why do you like working at XYZ Company?”

Ask what you need to bring/prepare. You can always ask the interviewer what you should expect or prepare for before the call, and I recommend doing so. Ask your contact what you should expect generally during the call, and if you’ll need to have a computer, internet access, or any other tools/material at the ready. This is a good time to figure out if you’ll be asked any technical questions or need to address specific technical topics.

Double-check contact information. Make sure the company has your correct contact info (on all materials — the contact info on your resume, in your signature/emails, and on your application should all match), and verify that the company is initiating the call, and how they are doing so (phone, Google Hangout, Skype, etc).

During the phone interview

Find a quiet place with few distractions to take the call. If your phone interview is during the workday, plan to work from home and take the call from there. If you have to be in the office that day, find a quiet place nearby (outside of the office) to do the interview. Friends who work nearby might be able to lend you a conference room — or look to Breather to see if there are available spaces.

Make sure you have (good) reception. Reliable phone reception and/or internet is super important — perhaps MOST important. You don’t want to have your call drop or not be struggling to make out what your interviewer is saying during the call. Do some due diligence and make sure you have good service in the location you plan to take the call.

cheerful phone interview

Photo by Kyle Johnson

Get happy. Make sure you have an upbeat tone to your voice, which can be accomplished by simply smiling through the phone during the conversation. Since the interviewer can’t see your facial expressions or body language, your voice is your only way to emote. Practice with a friend to figure out how to most effectively sound cheerful — without sounding maniacal.

Do your homework. Have your resume and the job description in front of you during the call. Other helpful information you might want closeby: The company’s About Us page, the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, and the company’s Crunchbase or Glassdoor profile.

Take notes.
 These will help you retain the information and ideas discussed, and will likely come in handy when you’re writing your follow-up thank you notes.

Try not to interrupt. Wait for the interviewer to finish speaking before you speak. This is common sense, but worth keeping top-of-mind, as it’s easy to get excited during the conversation and want to interject with brilliant insights or ideas. Remember your mantra: cool, calm, collected (at least on the outside).

Don’t get negative. It’s important to put a positive twist on-to all of your responses. Even if you harbor hard feelings or had a bad experience it’s important to provide a tactful answer.
Why did you leave your last job? (This could also be phrased as “Why are you looking to leave your current job?”)
☑ (Candidate) Positive Answer: The position did not offer the growth opportunities that I am looking for and I want to be in a more positive and collaborative environment.
☒ (Candidate) Negative Answer: My last company didn’t appreciate me and everyone was very standoffish. I also want to make more money.

Be clear and confident. On the phone, it is important to give concise and confident answers. Try to keep your answers to 60-90 seconds max; it’s easy to ramble-on or go off on tangents.

Stay focused and on topic. Pro tip: Write “talk slowly” on a Post-It and keep it in front of you as a reminder.
Example of an answer that keeps it short, but tells a powerful story:
Q: What would you say are your strengths & weaknesses?
A: My strengths are that I’ve worked as a frontend and backend engineer making me a valuable teammate and effective collaborator. My weakness is that I can get very focused on projects and procrastinate on smaller tasks, but I am quick to remedy any oversight so that I do not effective deadlines.

After the phone interview

Send a ‘thank you’ email to the person and/or people who interviewed you right after the interview or before the end of that working day. It’s important to thank them for their time, and an opportunity to reiterate why you’re excited about the position.

Do a post-mortem
. This is also a valuable time to reflect on what you think went well or didn’t go so well in your interview. Interviewing is a great way to get better at not only interviewing but it can also help you learn more about what you want & don’t want out of your next job.

Be patient. It is tough to be patient after an interview while you wait for the company’s feedback. Make sure to give the interviewer 3-5 business days after your interview to get back to you. At that point, if you haven’t heard back, it is acceptable to write them a quick note letting them know you’re still interested in the position and looking forward to hearing back from them soon. On Hired, we try to advocate that companies respond within 2-3 days, but a standard rule to follow would be to wait 3-5 business days.

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