Phone interviews may seem easy and straightforward. I mean, yeah phone calls in general are scary (no one in this generation likes calling to set appointments), but they shouldn’t be too bad, right? This is the thought pattern of a lot of people who get offered to do a phone interview first. At least it’s not in-person yet. Unfortunately, this thinking can set us up for disaster when the interview rolls around. You should be prepping just as much, if not more, if you want to ace a phone interview. Think of it as an open-book test, you can only do well if you have all the notes you need ahead of time.
What’s the Point?
Phone interviews often act as gateways for the main event. A company may have a dozen candidates whose resumes look good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to spend the time and money in-person interviewing each and every one of them. That’s where the phone interview comes in. It gives hiring managers a chance to get a preliminary look at their candidates, understand their interest level, and see if it’s worth moving them to the next step.
For some, phone interviews may cut their candidate pile in half, for others, they may use phone interviews to choose one candidate they’re 99% sure about hiring, and then confirm that with the in-person interview. I’ve been in both of these situations, and you never really know which one you’re dealing with until after the fact. All that to say, it’s important to ace a phone interview. Here’s how.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Like I said, you should think of phone interviews as open note tests: you only do well at them if you’ve actually prepared your notes ahead of time. As such, there are a few things you should have open and ready as you await the call:
- Your resume
- The job listing
- The email chain between you and the hiring manager
- The company’s website (which you’ve already familiarized yourself with)
Each of these will help you answer questions and show that you’ve taken an interest in the position. If, while answering one of the questions below, you’re able to relate something on your resume to one of your hobbies or passions, to something on their website or specific in the job listing, you’re sure to make an impression on the hiring manager.
What to Expect
Knowing what to expect in an interview is one of the most important parts. It means you can prepare some answers ahead of time, or at the very least not be caught off guard. Here’s what might be said or asked during the course of a phone interview (And remember, phone interviews are usually preliminary interviews, so they’ll normally be shorter than the later in-person one):
- “Tell me about yourself?” (See below for more info)
- Description of the company
- Description of the position
- “What is your availability/How many hours can you commit?”
- “How does your experience fit into this position?”
- “What are you looking to get out of this job/internship?”
- “What attracted you to this position?”
- “When could you start?”
- “Do you have any questions about the company or position?” (See below for more info)
These are some of the questions that a hiring manager may ask, and they’re all designed to see if they want to know more about you. So that’s how you should be answering: in ways that entice them to know more about you. Don’t give short answers, don’t say things they can already see on your resume; give them details that are unique to you and show why you’re a good fit for the position.
Tell Me About Yourself
This question will come up in almost every interview you’ll ever have, and as weird as it seems, you should probably have a general script for your answer. Take some time ahead of your interview and decide on the most important things you want a hiring manager to learn about you, and how to say those things concisely. We go deeper into creating this answer here.
Another interview staple will be, “Do you have any questions about the company or position?” And, I don’t want to say it’s a trick, but you definitely shouldn’t answer “no.” Hiring managers do want to give you the opportunity to ask any questions they didn’t answer already, but they’re also looking, again, to see if you show a genuine interest in the company. Come up with a few questions before the interview, and even if some of them get answered throughout the interview, you’ll have one or two left to show this interest. We go into more detail on these in this article.
You should follow up every interview, even if you don’t think it went well or aren’t obsessed with the position. For a phone interview, this can just be a quick email, thanking the hiring manager for their time. It just shows the hiring manager, once again, that you’re invested in the position, plus is a sign of respect and good manners. See our easy format below:
Hello [Name they used to sign emails with, or if more formal, Mr./Ms./Mrs. Last Name],
I’m just writing to thank you for your time today. I had a great time speaking with you about [position]. You thoroughly answered all of my questions and piqued my interest. [I look forward to hearing from you./I hope to hear from you soon.]
Feel free to email or call again if you have any further questions. Have a great day.
All in all, you just need a little preparation to ace a phone interview. It may not feel as high-stakes as an in-person interview, but you should still take the time and effort to do well in it, because it’s usually a deciding factor on what your next step is. And when you do well, and schedule an in-person interview, read our handy guide for that!