A phone interview is the culmination of years of work experience, educational and academic achievement, and a little bit of luck.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for candidates to interview via the phone.
You might also get asked to attend a video interview during this time.
It’s likely interviewing via Zoom, or a similar platform will happen more frequently as more and more of us continue to work remotely.
Phone interviews typically get conducted by a member of the recruiting or human resources team.
Usually, a phone interview is the first step in gauging an applicant’s qualifications.
It’s used as a determining factor in deciding to invite the applicant along to an on-site interview.
Learning how to prepare for a phone interview is one of the most important steps in successfully handling the call.
Recruiters and members of the human resources team are keenly aware of what skills and achievements the hiring manager is looking to find.
By mentally and vocally preparing for a phone interview, you can substantially increase your chances of being invited to an in-person and on-site consultation.
What is a Phone Interview?
Phone interviews are pretty straightforward, and they’re a reasonably low-pressure way to meet your potential new employers initially.
However, understanding why employers conduct phone interviews is something that can help you to perform better.
A phone interview is an interview held before an in-person or on-site interview.
As many employers receive a deluge of applications for an open job position, they use a phone interview as a screening tool to identify the top candidates.
As phone interviews are held before in-person or on-site interviews, they typically focus less on the job role’s details and specifics.
Instead, the interviewer will be looking to ensure that the applicant has a certain level of knowledge and understanding – it’s more about the candidate than the job.
Employers will typically invite more candidates to a phone interview than an on-site one.
That’s because the phone interview gets used to whittle down applicants, and only the top-level candidates will eventually get invited to an in-person interview.
As-such, an applicant should prepare just as thoroughly for a phone interview as an in-person meeting.
Recent years have also seen an increase in the use of automated phone interviews.
That’s generated some controversy; however, employers use them to conduct an initial screening of candidates without the need to tie up staff.
Besides, automated phone interviews allow candidates to attend an interview at a time and place that suits them.
How to Prepare for a phone interview: Five simple steps to success
Thoroughly preparing for a phone interview before the call happens is a must – and you can ace it if you take the right measures.
Try to think of it as a means to move to the next step in terms of applicant screening.
There are things you should avoid during the call, but for now, let’s concentrate on what you should do before the interview occurs.
Candidates should review their resume and cover letter, ensuring that they understand all the material and accomplishments listed.
Beyond that, candidates should review any other supplemental documentation that they may have included.
1. Review Your Hard and Soft Skills
Preparing mentally for a phone interview requires a candidate to review both their hard and soft skills.
Respectively, these are skills that are learned on the job and signal a capacity to work well with others.
Review which hard and soft skills you possess.
In terms of hard skills, what technical, functional, or on-job skills do you have?
What have you gained via previous work experiences?
Then, think about the soft skills you possess.
Don’t underestimate their importance either.
In the modern workplace, soft skills are highly regarded – and they’re only going to become more critical as time goes by.
A recent Australian study by Deloitte found that two out of every three jobs will be soft skill intensive by 2030, and 45% of employers report difficulty filling entry-level job vacancies because of a lack of soft skills among the applicant base.
That all means soft skills can help you stand out from other applicants and get through your phone interview to the next stage of screening – so make sure to promote any appropriate traits, experience, and qualifications you have.
Would you say that you are adaptable, reasonable, or a people person?
If so, prepare yourself by reminding yourself of those skills.
Think long and hard about how you gained those skills, and remember that they’re valuable to your potential employer.
By reviewing your soft skills, you’ll be more prepared to answer an interviewer’s questions regarding why you are the best candidate for the role.
2. What Have You Really Done?
Employers like to see candidates who have shown steady progress via promotions during their careers.
Although not necessary, it’s favorable to show an employer gradual rises in title and seniority as your career progresses.
So, take a step back and think about what you’ve really accomplished.
Have you merely been holding down a series of similar jobs, or can your employment journey be described as a career?
What are the significant or major achievements of which you are most proud?
Write these accomplishments down on a piece of paper.
You should keep this beside you when you begin your phone interview and use it as a source of confidence and reference.
Having that list beside you will also help you to ease your nerves and feel more relaxed during the interview process and call.
3. Write Key Career Points Down
You should write down any key points within your career progression on a sheet of paper.
That can include your previous work experience, any classes and courses you may have taken, and other skills and achievements you may have accomplished.
That sheet of paper should differ from your resume, which in turn will differ from your original cover letter.
It should be shorter and more easily digested.
When you’re speaking with the interviewer, be sure to reference this sheet.
You’ll be able to remember specific skills and achievements more quickly and more efficiently with an easily readable list of references.
4. Review Commonly Asked Interview Questions
Usually, interviewers will ask all applicants a set of standard, frequently asked questions.
Although nobody can guarantee which questions will get asked, certain examples are commonplace.
These typically reference your work history, educational history, and specific skills and achievements.
A great way to prepare mentally for a phone interview is to review a list of commonly asked interview questions.
Reviewing frequently asked questions will help you be ready for them and feel more comfortable answering them.
That will also help you portray a sense of confidence, which is key to landing an invitation to an on-site interview.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
While seemingly unnecessary, the practice has been shown to have positive effects on our brains.
When you are looking for ways to prepare for a phone interview mentally, there really is no better way than to practice beforehand.
Have a family member or trusted friend conduct a mock interview with you.
As you will be attending a phone interview, the mock interview should also be conducted over the phone.
Take the process seriously!
Although admittedly awkward, practicing beforehand can help you calm your nerves because it reduces unknown factors.
You’ll have a better sense of how to conduct a real phone interview after some rehearsal.
6. Verify, Verify, Verify
Before you reach out, you should continue to check your emails and confirm that the recruiter or hiring manager did not send you an update.
We’re all human, and sometimes things outside our control can affect our day and our scheduled meetings – that goes for hiring managers too.
Make sure you check your email and your spam folder regularly to see if they did try to reach you.
From there, make sure that you have sufficient cell service and signal and that you’re able to receive phone calls.
You don’t want the recruiter to try and call you then be unable due to a poor cell signal.
Also, before you reach out to the recruiter, make sure that the information you provided was correct and accurate.
Did you give them the right cell or home number?
Did you verify the date and time for the call and the time zone?
Go over your previous communications and confirm that everything you sent was in order.
a. Initial Outreach
If it’s been fifteen minutes, you’ve verified the information you sent, and you’ve confirmed that you have an appropriate cell signal, then you can make an initial outreach.
The best method is always a phone call.
That allows you to discuss with the recruiter or hiring manager how they would like to proceed immediately.
Text and email can be unreliable and may get lost in a queue, especially if the interviewer is having an emergency.
If the hiring manager doesn’t answer the phone, be sure to leave a voicemail.
Indicate that you followed up for your scheduled call and provide times when you are available for them to call you back.
b. Secondary Outreach
If you make the call but don’t get an answer, feel free to send a polite and professional email.
Indicate that you were waiting for the recruiter’s call, you understand if there’s been an unavoidable delay, and say you would like to schedule another meeting.
Again, make sure to provide dates and times you’re available.
Be professional in your email and don’t be aggressive or show frustration.
You don’t know why the scheduled call got delayed, and you don’t want to burn any bridges or opportunities.
c. Final Outreach
The final outreach should only be done if you have not heard back from the recruiter or hiring manager a good 48-hours after your originally scheduled interview.
At that time, feel free to send one FINAL email to follow up.
You should be professional but stern in your email.
Indicate that you had not heard back but are still interested in the position.
Once again, provide a few dates and times when you are available.
If you’ve received no response after three attempts at setting a new time to hold the phone interview, it’s probably a good idea to write the situation off and remove yourself from consideration.
You do not need to send any further communication; however, you should regroup and apply to other positions.
Though it may be frustrating, take it as a blessing in disguise.
You don’t want to work for a company that disregards set schedules and appointments in such a manner – and remember that the failings were in no way, shape, or form your own – so, don’t get disheartened.
Recruiter Late for A Phone Interview?
These days, many hiring companies use phone screenings or interviews before inviting a whittled down list of candidates in for face-to-face meetings.
The phone stage of selection typically happens because employers want to get to know the candidate better before committing time and hours to the next step.
Employers tend only to invite the most serious, qualified candidates into the office.
Sometimes, you might find the recruiter or hiring manager is late to join your call.
You may sit around wondering if you have the correct time or if they’ve simply gone with another candidate, and you could get tempted to call, email, or text the recruiter, but it’s unlikely you need to do that.
When a recruiter or hiring manager is late for a phone screening or interview, it’s best to keep your powder dry and always to give them ample time to join the conference line.
Don’t worry if fifteen minutes or so pass after the scheduled time for your interview – remember, the hiring manager probably has a long list of applicants to cover.
Often, discussions run later as the day progresses.
If you do reach out to the interviewer, do so carefully, professionally, and in a considerate manner.
The initial method you use should be the one you stick with.
Under no circumstances should you barrage them with a slew of text messages, emails, and phone calls.
How to Prepare for a Phone Interview: Tips and Tricks
How to prepare for a phone interview is just one step of the overall process.
You’ll still want to conduct yourself in a manner that will help you to land an in-person interview.
That’s the next step in the process of eventually securing the advertised position.
Follow the below steps for tips and tricks on having a phone interview.
- Have a one-sheeter with your high-level accomplishments and achievements
- Keep your resume and cover letter handy and nearby
- Have a list of questions already prepared for the interviewer
- Speak in a standard, calm, and deliberate tone
- Use a landline if available
Clear the room of kids, other adults, and pets.
- You will want to conduct the phone interview in a quiet room
- Address the interviewer by their last name, with the Mr./Ms. beforehand
- Keep a glass of water beside you in case your mouth gets dry, but don’t eat, chew, or smoke anything during the call
- Take your time to answer the questions.
- Enunciate when you speak and use verbal cues to convey an understanding of how the interviewer is feeling
- Give short, direct answers.
- Don’t try to overcomplicate the question or the answer
- Thank the interviewer, and be sure to send a thank-you email when you finish the call
How-To Know If You Failed A Phone Interview?
How to prepare for a phone interview also means preparing for failure.
There are a few tell-tale indicators you can watch out for after a telephone interview.
It’s best to remain upbeat after your experience, no matter what happens.
Remember, getting as many applications for a corporate job out there as you possibly will leave you less reliant on any single interview.
Insulate yourself from sleepless nights and long days waiting for the phone to ring by making sure you’re as active in the job market as possible.
While the word failed is a bit harsh, there are some tell-tale signs that the phone interview did not go well or as planned.
One of the most obvious ways is that the recruiter did not call you.
This can be extremely demoralizing for a candidate and is likely a sign that the company has gone with another applicant.
Another way to know whether or not the phone interview went well is if you did not answer the phone call or happened to miss the call.
Though not wholly detrimental, missing the phone interview call can start the interview on the wrong foot.
Additionally, if the recruiter left a message, you should have a professional, straightforward voicemail message.
A Short Call
If the phone interview is scheduled for thirty minutes but ended after ten minutes, that may be a sign that the call did not go well.
Typically, recruiters are looking to get as much information about the candidate as possible.
If they don’t need the full-time amount of time, that may mean they don’t believe you’re a good fit for the role.
Lots of Silence
If there is a lot of silence during the call, then the recruiter may not think you’re the right candidate for the role.
Most phone interviews are engaging and have a lot of back-and-forths.
A call that’s silent and doesn’t have much conversation is a tell-tale sign the phone interview didn’t go well.
Arguing or Raised Voices
Though thankfully not commonplace, if a phone interview devolves into a shouting match, it most definitely did not go well.
Phone interviews should be cordial and respectful on the part of both parties.
Any arguing or shouting is unacceptable, and the recruiter will not recommend the candidate for the role.
Answering I Don’t Know
If the candidate answers many of the questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t have that experience,” then the phone interview probably didn’t go well.
A recruiter is looking to see that the candidate has certain skills and qualifications to complete the role’s responsibilities.
If an applicant clearly doesn’t have those skills, they will likely get passed over for the position.
Conclusion: How to Prepare for a Phone Interview
Not every candidate is suitable for every position out there, and each hiring manager has their own ideas and sets their own checklist for applicants.
You can be an excellent candidate and still not tick those boxes – but you shouldn’t let that get to you.
Keep pushing, keep applying, and keep tweaking your resume.
It’s important to never feel dejected or demoralized by a knock-back or no call when you’re trying to get a corporate job.
Stay positive, concentrate on your strengths, and frequently review them.
You’ll get there!