5 Ways to Prepare for Your Phone Interview

by: Samantha SnellingsJuly 23, 2020

Some job-seekers breathe a sigh of relief when a hiring manager opts for a phone interview over an in-person conversation. Before you celebrate, be aware that phone interviews do not always work out in the candidate’s favor. Without your physical presence, hiring managers may pay more attention to the little things that you are unaware of. Here are the “who, what, when, where and how” to remember when preparing for a phone interview.

1. Know WHO you are talking to.

Although there are many challenges that come with phone interviews, one benefit is that you can lean upon a “cheat sheet” — where you may not be able to in person.

Just like you would take time to prepare for an in-person interview, prepare for the scheduled phone call by researching who you will be talking to. How long has he or she been working for the company? Did you attend the same university? Do you share any of the same interests? What is an icebreaker that you can use to ease into the conversation?

Create bullet points with important facts that you want to remember about the hiring manager. Have a list of questions prepared for the individual about the specific position, the company culture and other topics that you are interested in discussing.

2. WHAT you wear influences HOW you feel and HOW you feel influences WHAT you say.

When preparing for a phone interview, you may be tempted to trade in your professional interview attire for your favorite t-shirt and sweatpants. But, keep in mind that the clothing that you are wearing — although unseen by the interviewer — may subconsciously affect the way that you conduct yourself and answer questions.

A study titled “The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing” found that “Wearing formal clothing is . . . related to psychological formality and social distance, whereas casual clothing is related to intimacy and familiarity.”

Your choice of casual clothing may have unintended consequences — like a more casual approach to the conversation. “Be careful as a candidate that your level of formality comes through in your voice and demeanor. Send a positive message to your hiring manager by having a professional tone and approach to the conversation,” Trevor Richards, Account Manager and Technology Recruiter at PeerSource, reminds candidates.

Take a moment to reconsider wearing that comfortable piece of clothing and opt for a professional outfit.

3. WHEN you interview is important.

As a candidate, you are often at the mercy of the hiring manager when it comes to setting up a call. But, if you have the opportunity to narrow down the time of day that your phone interview takes place, remember this.

You do not want to be the first person that the hiring manager talks to in the morning. “Your interviewer might be groggy — or, worse, late,” notes Lily Zhang — author of the article, “The Best (and Worst) Times to Schedule an Interview.”

At the same time, keep in mind that you do not want to schedule the interview too late.

Zhang points out the implications of “decision fatigue — the notion that the quality of your decision making deteriorates after a series of choices or as the day progresses.” She notes “a study done by the National Academy of Science, [where] judges were less likely to grant parole to applications later in the day. Decision fatigue starts impeding critical thinking abilities as the day goes on, and judges generally start getting more cautious or defaulting to rejections as they stop being able to examine applications thoroughly.”

Consider how being scheduled during the first and during the last part of a hiring manager’s day can affect his or her judgement. Weigh the options and come to a decision by evaluating your specific situation.

4. WHERE you make the call is vital.

Have you ever been on an important call and lost connection? Make sure that does not happen during your interview by securing a good location in advance of taking the phone call.

Test the connection ahead of time by calling a friend or family member. Does your voice come across without an echo? Can he or she hear any background noise? Are you going to be using a headset, the speakerphone or your home phone during the interview? Test the location using that same device.

If you are doing the phone call at home, take every precaution to ensure that there are no interruptions — that means the dog is in the backyard and the kids are busy playing in a room across the house.

5. What you say and HOW you say it is key.

“In telephone interviews, all nonverbal cues are removed, and therefore applicants cannot adjust their responses based on the interviewers’ facial cues,” points out an article published in the journal, Personal Assessment and Decisions, called “Technology in the Employment Interview: A MetaAnalysis and Future Research Agenda.”

WHAT you say is important, as is HOW you say it. In order to avoid giving long-winded answers and dominating the conversation, try to imagine yourself in the office with the hiring manager.

If you were meeting in person, where would there be natural points to pause and wait for him or her to chime in? This gives the hiring manager the opportunity to ask clarifying questions or move on to another topic.

If you have the option of doing an in-person interview, jump at it. But, if you are scheduled for a phone-interview, take a deep breath, relax, and keep these tips in mind as the phone rings and you answer the call.

Do you have any other phone interview suggestions? Let us know. Send an email to sami.snellings@mypeersource.com.