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10 Tips to Ace a Phone Interview

When interviewing for a new job, you’ll likely encounter at least one round over the phone. The key to acing a phone interview is to treat it as if it were an in-person conversation and prepare for it the same way. Since a phone interview can determine whether or not you move forward as a candidate, it’s worth your extra time and attention.

Moreover, even if you’re not currently looking for a job, best practices for phone interviews directly apply to business conversations as well!

Beyond the basics of having your resume, the job description, pen/paper and a glass of water handy, follow these tips to ensure you make a strong, positive impression and nail the interview.

Phone Interview Tips

  • 1. Check phone reception in advance. Wherever you plan to take the call — on your cellphone at home, in a conference room at work or elsewhere — make a few test calls to ensure there is strong, reliable reception. Dropped calls frustrate everyone, disrupt momentum and may negatively impact the interviewer’s perception of you.
  • 2. Allow extra time. Interviews may start late or go over their scheduled time. The last thing you want to worry about is cutting an interview short in order to get back to the office, be on time for a call with your boss or pick up your child, as any obligation will divide your attention. Furthermore, if the interview goes well, the primary interviewer may ask you to speak with someone else right away — potentially your future boss! Always allot extra time so you have flexibility.
  • 3. Block out noise. If you’re home during the interview, make sure you close windows and shut doors. Ambient noise (sirens, barking or crying) can distract both you and the interviewer. If the interviewer can hear the noise, then he/she may not be listening to everything you’re saying. And if you hear the noise, you may lose focus and not answer a question as strongly as you could have.
  • 4. Close your computer. Having a computer handy in case you need to do quick research is a good idea. However, it’s best to close your laptop or turn off the monitor of a desktop. Distractions from screen savers, email, social media and other notifications can divert your attention and impact your engagement with an interviewer. (This is especially relevant for business conversations as well!)
  • 5. Use headphones, not speakerphone. When a call is on speaker, small sounds are amplified and it can be hard for someone on the other end to hear you clearly. Use headphones to improve clarity. They also provide the added benefit of avoiding neck discomfort from holding the phone to your ear during a long conversation.
  • 6. Sit in a chair. Your voice projects more strongly when sitting up straight. Avoid a couch, recliner or bed, as they often promote slouching, which can affect the strength and energy of your voice.
  • 7. Don’t face a window. If you’re easily distracted, minimize chances that something will grab your attention and prevent you from hearing a question or responding to one strongly. Even a distraction for a split second can throw you off — which is especially frustrating if you’re in the middle of a great response!
  • 8. Silence your phone. Whether or not you’re using your cellphone for the interview, turn off your ringer and silence your phone. When interviewers hear ringing, beeping or buzzing in the background, they may get annoyed or wonder if you’re paying full attention. Also turn the phone face down to prevent distractions from texts or notifications.
  • 9. Smile. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, smiling while you’re speaking will help convey your interest in the job and enthusiasm for your work. Making a positive impression is key to a successful interview and smiling will help get your message across.
  • 10. Dress for success. We tend to speak with more energy and confidence when dressed and groomed to look the part of the position we seek. When deciding what to wear for a phone interview, business casual is best. While you don’t need to wear the suit that you would for an in-person interview, you should also skip the t-shirt, pajamas or sweats.
  • There are many things to consider when preparing for an interview – let alone a phone interview. The extra steps to prepare for a quiet, distraction-free environment for a phone interview are well worth the time as they may increase your chances of moving forward as a job candidate.

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