Tips for Telephone Interviews


Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to …..interviews.

My college student son has been looking for summer internships over the last few months.  He recently texted and told me he had a phone interview scheduled for the next day.  Being the mom I am, I immediately started writing him a list of tips for acing a telephone interview.  Hopefully there is at least one thing here that is new to you, and will help you as well.  

DO YOUR HOMEWORK on the company/department ahead of time.  Read as much as possible on their web site, to find out what they’re all about.  If you know people who work there, talk to them and find out about both typical projects and the culture of the department.  I am constantly amazed at the number of people who omit this crucial step, making those who take it that much more impressive.

BE PREPARED to talk about what you have done with specific examples of your most significant accomplishments so far in your career.  If possible, find a way to relate them to the position for which you are applying. 

SET UP FOR SUCCESS. Find a quiet place, where you can close the door and not be disturbed.  Warn everyone who may come in (roommates, family, etc.) not to interrupt.  Depending on where you are, you may want to ask a friend to guard the door for you during the call. 

Use a land line if possible, or at the very least a location that gets excellent reception for your cell phone.  If possible, turn off call waiting, text messages, and other interruptions that may come through your phone. If you can’t turn them off, ignore them during the call. 

Have a copy of your resume in front of you during the call (preferably the version you sent them), as well as a piece of paper and pencil for taking notes.  If you can, use a headset on the telephone so you can have both hands free to take notes (by typing or writing). 

FOCUS ON THE CONVERSATION.  Ask for the interviewer’s name and number at the very beginning of the call, so you can call them back if you get cut off.  (As an added plus, you can also use that info contact them later, to find out the status of your application.)

Stand up during the phone call, if possible with a mirror in front of you (but don’t do it in a bathroom, the acoustics will give that away).  You want to appear enthusiastic and excited about the position, and you will smile more if you’re standing and looking in a mirror.

SHOW INTEREST AND ENTHUSIASM.  Have some questions prepared for them – about the type of work, the types of projects, and so on.  The money is secondary; don’t ask about that unless they bring it up.

FINISH WELL.  At the end of the conversation, thank them for their time, and make sure to ask what the next step is.  If it is that “you will hear from us”, make sure you know approximately how long it will take them to make their decision and move to the next step. 

Send a thank you note.  For a phone interview, a quick email is probably sufficient. 
If you do all of these things, you should make a great impression and move on to the next stage of the hiring process.  Of course if you’re my son, shortly after you send the text to your mother, you find out it’s an in-person interview instead of a phone interview.  Maybe my next blog article should be a list of tips for in-person interviews….
This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants LLC. Lisa is a technical writer/editor and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press.

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4 Responses to Tips for Telephone Interviews

  1. Cynthia says:

    Very helpful. Thank you so much Lisa

  2. Lori says:

    Good advice, thank you. Other people suggest dressing nicely (at least not in p.j.s) so you feel (and project) professional. I suggest having lots of research at your fingertips – use the fact that you can have notes on the table in front of you to your advantage. However, do NOT let the interviewer hear you shuffling papers – have them organized. You can have company information and industry data handy if you need it.

  3. Millicent says:

    Wonderful! Thanks a lot!

  4. Akogun Sunday F says:

    Indeed I’ll say that I’m really blessed by this,it’s like I’m being given a gift that can be touched.Love you & may God bless you,amen.

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