Preparing for a Phone Interview

There are a few different ways to prepare for a phone interview. First of all, in every case, remember: focus on keeping your answers to 60 to 75 seconds, wherever you can keep them to 60. Try not to be grandiose or arrogant when you answer the questions.

Every time they ask you a question, write it down. It will be a reminder, allowing you to keep on point, focused on answering their question. Take notes throughout the phone interview as a reminder of the points you may want to make or about things that you might forget. Here again, practice. Find a friend to rehearse with you over the phone.

Be courteous and cautious to avoid interrupting or speaking over the interviewer. If you can, avoid using your cell phone because the reception quality is rarely as good as a landline. In a phone interview, your voice is your one selling tool, so you want the circumstances to be ideal.

If you’re interviewing at home, find a place where your children won’t interrupt you, or the TV won’t make noise in the background. There’s nothing worse than a child getting into an argument with a parent in the background while you’re trying to have a conversation with a potential employer.

Finally, when the conversation ends, wait for them to hang up before you do. And make sure you’ve both hung up before you say anything. I have some pretty funny stories about hearing what people have said when they thought I’ve hung up. The things that they say are embarrassing.

One guy that I worked with a few years ago, JJ, was extremely competent and well regarded as a director within his organization, but he kept striking out during his phone interviews. He asked me for help, so I invited him to do a phone interview with me. I asked him a couple of baseline questions over the phone and I could hear right away what his issue was.  

Most interviews are predictable, and JJ had quite a few and a lot over his career. He had answered the same questions over and over again. His problem was that he was bored, and I could hear it in his voice. This was how he sabotaged himself.

So I reminded him of a show that he’d seen recently—a long-running musical on Broadway. I said, “Do you realize those actresses have been in the show now for 3 years singing the same song night after night? You paid the full price for your ticket and were expecting them to do a great job that night just like they did on opening night, right? Well, it’s the same thing in an interview. The interviewer is only hearing your answer for the first time, even though you may have said it 20 times already. Your job is to be an actor or actress on the stage, to be as excited and passionate about these same questions every time you hear them.”

You have to be ready immediately because the phone may ring and there’s someone there to evaluate you on the other end. You have to be ready to go on stage and sing your heart out at that moment. If you remember when we were first talking about this, I mentioned keeping your organizer, paper files, or access to your iPad available for each job. Reach for them right away and be prepared to talk about your experiences as fits their role, while, at the same time, try and seem excited—not confused– and prepared.

They will decide in five minutes whether or not to pay attention to anything further and whether to invite you in for a face-to-face interview. As I mentioned earlier, I think an iPad or an organizer is ideal because they are small and portable so that if you receive a call on your mobile phone, you can just pull it out of your briefcase, purse or knapsack and flip to the specific page you need.   

If you need to retrieve something to have a reference of the job description, you can always say, “I’m on the line with someone else, can I give you a call back in five minutes?” Then, you can grab what you need and call them back prepared.

After all, you always want to appear confident and masterful.

 

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ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER

Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a free Discovery call.

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