Four Simple Tips to Conquer Your Phone Interview

Congratulations! Your resume has been plucked from that towering pile of applications reaches up to the ceiling in some nondescript Human Resources office. Now that employer wants to schedule a phone interview to discuss your qualifications. Now it’s time to prepare!

Getting the date and time for a phone interview is definitely good news. It give you time to prepare articulate talking points, and find out as much as possible about the company. Indeed, the best thing about the phone interview is that you can go in well armed, with notes in hand, without actually going in at all.

However, this  does not mean that you should relax and let down your guard.

The “home field” trap is a common rookie mistake. The sense of security that comes from talking to a hiring manager from the safety of your own home can lead to careless mistakes that will be noticed, even if you aren’t in the same room, sweating under direct questions.

Don’t try to wing it. An overly casual manner can indicate a personality that would prefer chilling on the couch instead of getting down to business. It’s perfectly acceptable to rehearse your speaking tone, talking points and responses to expected questions. Famous actors do it all the time—and they make more money than we do!

Here are my tips for acing a phone interview.


It’s important to cultivate a pleasant (and realistic) manner when speaking on the phone. Smiling is recommended, as it provides your brain with a behavioral cue to maintain a friendly disposition. Plus, your voice actually sounds more positive when you smile.

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Watching yourself on a phone or in a mirror prior to the interview can help the smile become an easy default setting for your face.

Don’t forget that the hiring manager is most likely working through a ton of candidates, so anything you can do to stand out in a positive way will help your cause. And what’s more positive than smiling?

Sit up

The next part of your phone interview strategy is simple. Maintain a vertical posture; sit up or stand up while talking. It’s easier on the diaphragm and will you help you to annunciate more clearly. If the body is at attention, the head will follow.

Remember, you do not get style points for taking the call while lying in bed or lounging in a hot bath. Get up and prepare yourself for the interview—and for the third part of the plan.

Suit up

Tempting as it might be to take a “Casual Friday” approach to selecting an outfit before a phone interview, I suggest sticking to business attire. The ritual of preparing clothes for an interview is essential for maintaining focus, as well as providing a subtle, but necessary nervous edge to the candidate’s demeanor. The sequence of preparation cues is a potent reminder that there is something truly at stake in this phone call.

Sweatpants and a grimy Iron Maiden T-shirt might be the first options available from your “floordrobe”, but taking the time to choose more business-like apparel is another way of telling yourself that this is serious business, and that you’d better be on your game.

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Speak up

By now, you should be aware that you are chatting with someone who can directly affect your standard of living. This person wants to find out more about you and what kind of an employee you would make, but they don’t need your life story. Keep to the point. When applicants become nervous, it can result in a desire to fill all the vacant conversational space with babble.

Answers to questions should be long enough to make the point, but they shouldn’t span multiple topics or remind you of a funny story. Since you aren’t face to face with your interviewer, visual cues aren’t present and can lead to more chatter. Ideally, an answer shouldn’t take more than 90 seconds.

An effective method of minimizing the babble is by flipping the script and “interviewing” the interviewer. This shows that you are engaged, inquisitive, and not afraid to ask tough questions, such as, “What led to this job opening? Was the previous employee lacking in some area? What will be expected of me in the first 90 days?”

Take your time before answering a provocative question, so that you can formulate a proper response. It’s infinitely better to spend a moment in thought than it is to keep up a barrage of charming banter—unless you’re interviewing for a job in radio, that is!