A phone interview is often the first step in a job interview process. A phone interview can be as short as 10 minutes, or it can last an hour. Be prepared. Treat the phone interview seriously, as it will in all likelihood determine whether you will be invited to continue to the next step in the process.
A challenge of the phone interview is that it can be difficult to gauge how the interviewer feels about your answers. You can’t read their visual cues. There may be pauses in conversation, and you may not be able to tell why. Maybe the interviewer is taking notes.
The point is, it may be harder to tell how a phone interview is going, compared to an in-person interview. Be prepared for this ambiguity. If an interviewer sounds “cold,” or is taking lots of pauses, don’t assume that the interview is not going well. You might still be invited to the next interview.
An alternative to a phone interview might be an interview using some sort of videoconferencing software, such as Skype.
Before Your Telephone or Skype Interview
- Dress for an in-person interview. Wearing professional clothing can change the way you act and sound. If you are using Skype, we recommend wearing dark clothes with a pop of color (e.g., tie or blouse). Keep in mind that some clothing details may not look good on screen. Avoid stripes because the distortion might be distracting to look at. Do dress in a full professional outfit, so that if you should need to stand, you are not seen wearing your pajama bottoms.
- Find a quiet place where you can speak at a reasonable volume. And get there at least 5 – 10 minutes before the scheduled call time in case you are called earlier than expected. If you are using Skype, make sure the room is well-lit and that the area in view of the camera does not have anything in it that you do not want an employer to see.
- Avoid technical difficulties by making sure your Internet connection is reliable. If you are using Skype, familiarize yourself with Skype’s features in advance (and choose a professional-sounding username). Make sure your headphones are securely in the jack, and that your Ethernet cable is connected for extra security in case your wireless connection fades out.
- Use a landline for phone interviews if at all possible. The sound quality will be better than on a cell phone, and you are less likely to experience delays or dropped calls.
- Disable extra features and programs. If you are using a phone, disable extra features such as call waiting, texting, or an answering machine for an additional phone line to prevent distracting noises. Most phone companies let you disable and re-activate these features on a self-service basis. If you are using Skype, the only Web sites you should have open are the company’s homepage and the service which you are using to teleconference. Turn off all programs that might pop up with an alert, such as e-mail or instant messaging. And sign in to Skype in such a way as to prevent your being interrupted by other Skype users.
During Your Telephone or Skype Interview
- Answer the incoming call with your name. This lets the interviewer know they have the right number and person. Know in advance exactly how you will greet the caller and start the conversation.
- Smile. Smiling when you speak brings energy and excitement to your voice.
- Pay attention to your body language. We recommended you sit with good posture, regardless of whether anyone can see you, because when you sit up straight, your voice is likely to project better. Do not be afraid to use your hands to be expressive, if that is normal for you. If you are using Skype, look directly at the camera (NOT the image on the screen) and lean in slightly towards it, to convey interest.
- Pause a second or two longer than you normally would before answering a question to make sure the interviewer has stopped speaking. That way, if there is a lag, you can avoid interrupting the interviewer.