Phone interviews are often your first foot in the door for impressing a potential employer...but talking on the phone doesn’t always come naturally, especially when you consider the added stress and pressure that a job interview carries.
Whether you’re a natural with phone interviews or a novice looking for tips, here’s what you need to know.
Read more: 6 Tips to Get Over Your Job Interview Nerves
Getting ready for your phone interview
1. Interviews don’t always happen at the most convenient times, but you should do your best to plan around them. If your interview happens during the work day, then try to take a long lunch or dip out a little early so you can devote your full focus to the conversation. Don’t schedule a meeting right after your phone interview—you don’t want to risk rushing through.
2. Pick a good location—a noisy coffee shop during your lunch break or a street corner down the block probably isn’t really prime real estate for an important conversation. Find a quiet space where you feel comfortable, even if it’s just sitting in your car in a parking lot.
3. If you’re taking the interview at your house, try to set the scene. Get away from the TV, shut the door, sit at a desk or table, and have your paperwork ready and in front of you.
4. Do some research. The phone interview is probably your first actual conversation with someone from the company, so it’s your big chance to make an impression and show that you’ve done your homework about both the company and the position.
5. Practice your answers. Do a little digging into some common phone interview questions, and prepare how you’ll reply to each. Practice what you’re going to say in the mirror or with a friend, or even write out a script our outline! Just make sure you don’t sound too rehearsed during the interview—you still want to come off as natural and relaxed.
6. Make a cheat sheet. Include parts of your resume that you really want to hit on, like major numbers or accomplishments, as well as things about the company that interest you, or even logistics like your salary/benefits requirements and a potential start date.
7. Have everything you could need in front of you. That includes a copy of your resume and cover letter, a copy of the job description, headphones, a notepad and paper, chargers, and whatever else you might need.
8. Dress for success. Even though it’s a phone interview and you won’t actually be seeing anyone else (so why not wear your PJs?), dressing the part can help you get in the right mindset for the interview.
Read more: How to Nail a Phone Interview
During the interview
9. Set the tone with your greeting. Be ready for the call at least ten minutes before the scheduled time, so you can answer after one or two rings. When you pick up the phone, give them a confident greeting. Saying, Hello, this is [Name], is a surefire way to sound professional and start on the right foot.
10. Be friendly. They make ask you how your day is going or how your week has been—and you should embrace the chance to make a little small talk! After all, it’ll help paint you as a more three-dimensional candidate, and you can get to know more about your potential future colleagues.
11. Lean toward listening. Often, these initial conversations are information-heavy, so don’t just wait to ask your questions—hear what they have to say about the company, the role, and what they’re looking for in a new hire.
12. Be mindful on your tone. During phone interviews, it can be tough to strike a balance between enthusiasm and professionalism. Try to show excitement in your answers, but don’t go overboard. Talk slowly, clearly, and with just enough emotion. Bonus tip: Pretend the person you’re on the phone with is actually sitting across from you—it can help make your tone more genuine!
13. Save your questions for the end. You’ll likely have a few that come to mind during the interview, so write them down to remember for later as you think of them. That way, you can stay focused on the conversation at hand, but also show that you were actively listening and thoughtfully considering what was being discussed.
14. Ask about a timeline. For example, when might you hear back about next steps? Or, how soon are they hoping to hire a new candidate? They could be aggressively searching or casually waiting for the right person, and you will want to know either way.
After the interview
15. Write down some notes while they’re fresh in your mind. Maybe you discussed a project that you’d be excited to work on, or they mentioned something mildly concerning about the company culture. You might not remember all of the details when it comes time for the second round of interviews, so take note of what stuck out to you.
16. Reach out to say thank you. You don’t have to send a handwritten letter or call them again—even a quick email will do. Just say thanks for the conversation, let them know you appreciate them taking the time to talk with you, and that you look forward to hearing back either way. (Need help? Here’s how to write a thank-you note after a phone interview.)
17. Haven’t heard back yet? Don’t be afraid to follow-up! If you asked about a timeline during the interview, then wait until that amount of time has passed before reaching out again. If not, then a general rule of thumb is to wait one to two weeks before sending a follow-up email.