If you’ve managed your job search process successfully, you’ve likely secured an initial phone interview. This is a crucial step as you aim to advance to the next round for a more in-depth in-person or video interview. Here are some insider tips to help you succeed in your next phone interview. 

Prepare. A little bit of preparation goes a long way. Start by doing some basic research on the company by reading the “About” on their website, check recent business articles, or find the latest press releases. Be ready to answer what I consider the Big Five basic questions:  

  • Tell me about yourself. 
  • What are your strengths? 
  • What are your weaknesses?  
  • Why should we hire you?  
  • Where do you want to be in five years?  

There are no terribly wrong answers to any of these questions, besides not being prepared and answering off the top of your head. Have one or two examples of recent work accomplishments ready to discuss, and prepare a couple of insightful questions to ask when the opportunity arises. Try to ask something specific, like what your interviewer enjoys most about working for the company, or about the company’s future goals, using some information you uncovered in your research.   

Know your audience. Understand whether you are speaking with Human Resources or the hiring manager, as this can affect the focus of your responses. HR’s goal is to check if you are a potentially good fit for further interviews, focusing on the minimum job requirements and identifying any major red flags. Avoid speaking ill of former employers, giving inadequate reasons for leaving a previous job, being overly familiar, or evasive on tough questions. 

If you are speaking with the hiring manager, cater your responses more towards the specific requirements of the job. Make sure you have examples of your experience that align with the skills listed in the job description. 

Keep answers short. Sometimes, less is more. Remember, a typical phone interview lasts about 30 minutes, and that time goes by quickly. Interviewers often have a set list of questions, and long-winded answers can disrupt the flow and be frustrating. Aim to keep your responses to about a minute each. Try making the interview more conversational by following up some of your answers with related questions. 

Be Patient. The format of a phone interview only allows for a brief interaction. Usually, the interviewer will tell you a bit about the company, position, before delving into your qualifications. Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow much time for deep-dive questions about intricacies about the job, long term expectation, benefits, or compensation. So, be patient. Understand that this is just a preliminary introduction; deeper questions should be saved for later interviews. However, if there is a critical question that could influence your interest in the position, feel free to ask it.  

ABC (Always Be Closing). One key aspect many candidates forget is to express their interest in the role actively. At the end of the interview, if you are interested, make it known with a statement like, “My background seems like a good fit for the position, and I would be very interested in pursuing the next step in the process.” A brief thank-you email post-interview can also leave a good impression. Conversely, if you don’t think it is a good match and you are not interested, politely let them know. 

By following these tips, you’ll be better prepared to make a great impression on your next phone interview.

Written: June 2024