How to ace that phone interview: 7 top tips

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By Emily Lucas.

The jobs market is more competitive than ever and, in a world where employers simply don’t have time to sit and get to know candidates before whittling them down to the final few, the phone interview is becoming more and more prevalent.

For some, this is a saving grace (answering a few questions in our PJs, yay!) but for others, just the idea of a phone interview is enough to put them off entirely. Given the experts claim a whopping 93 per cent of our communication is non-verbal, though, it’s tricky to impress while on the phone.  

Okay, so now you’re really panicking… but before you change your mind and back out altogether, read our tips and it might seem less daunting than you think. Here’s how to ace that phone interview.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln

  1. Prepare/stalk

We all know that preparation is key, but it’s even more important when you don’t have the interviewer’s reactions to respond to. Fortunately, you can gain an incredible amount of insight into the company by looking at its LinkedIn page, in addition to its website. This enables a much better feel for the company’s culture and the work it does – you can even look up your interviewers (privacy settings on, of course!), if it offers a little more reassurance. The great thing about a phone interview is that you don’t have to memorise everything you’ve learned; you can literally scroll through the website as you’re asked a question. Shhh… don’t tell anyone.

The rest of your preparation won’t be too dissimilar to that of a face-to-face interview. We’ve all come across those awkward interview questions, so have some answers ready and don’t forget to provide examples wherever possible.

  1. Dress to impress

Our appearance has a massive impact on how we feel and act; just because you’re on the phone, don’t think you can’t dress professionally. Shower, fling on that smart suit and get ready for the interview as though you were meeting in person. Taking control of how you look puts you in the right frame of mind to get serious – even if the other person won’t see your crisply ironed interview outfit.

  1. Rid yourself of distractions

We all remember this poor chap, don’t we? Some interviewers may see the funny side of the kids walking in or the doorbell ringing, but most will see it as poor planning on your part. Get a babysitter, shut out the pets and turn off the television. Basically, find a quiet place in which you can have the conversation in peace, avoiding anything that’s likely to distract or disrupt you. Preferably this place will be neat, tidy and comfortable – a calm sanctuary where you can really concentrate on the task at hand.

  1. Check your connections

There’s nothing worse than not being able to dial up or join a conference call a minute before the interview starts, so check that all the tech stuff is in order beforehand. Charge your mobile phone, ensure you’ve downloaded any apps and basically remove any additional stress. Ideally, they’ll send you all the instructions and the most you’ll have to do is pick up.

  1. Posture perfect

Sitting up straight indicates positivity and confidence. We know the interviewer won’t be able to see, but it will have a knock-on effect on how you feel and in turn, how you come across. Similarly, if you’re lacking in confidence or are concerned you’re losing control of the interview, take a deep breath and stand up. Standing up will make you feel powerful, tricking your mind into feeling much more in control of a situation.

“Every good conversation starts with good listening” - anon

  1. Listen

Without seeing the other person, it’s easy to talk over each other or not be quite sure when the interviewer deems the question has been adequately answered – how’s that for embarrassing? An easy way to avoid this is to simply listen. They’re running the interview and they’ll prompt you for more information when necessary.

All too often, candidates go off on their own tangent when answering what they think they’re being asked as opposed to what they’re actually being asked, so listen. Don’t be afraid to pause for thought either, even though the silence on the line could appear awkward, an interviewer would much rather you take a few moments to compose yourself, rather than ramble without direction – this will only be viewed as a lack of knowledge or confidence.

  1. Keep hydrated

How often in an interview has your mouth gone dry, making it hard for you to get your words out? Nerves and incessant talking can have this effect, so keep a big glass of water or a cup of coffee on hand while you’re on the phone. Just make sure you don’t slurp into the mouthpiece!

Phone interviews are increasingly gaining in popularity, proving a convenient and time-saving way to progress the right candidates to the next stage in the recruitment process – no need to take a day’s holiday or cover up for a suspicious long lunch. They might sound scary at first, but could save you a lot of stress. Take advantage of being in a comfortable environment, of having all your notes to hand and that use our tips to ace that phone interview! Good luck!

Have you had a phone interview? What are your top tips? Let us know what you think.