Your next job interview may be over the phone – here’s how to prepare

Phone interview are often a way for employers to screen candidates before in-person interviews, experts say. Hero Images/Getty Images

When most of us think about job interviews, we often think about what we’d wear, how we’d present ourselves and the firmness of our handshake. But the truth is not all interviews involve meeting a potential employer in person, but rather over-the-phone.

“Many companies use phone interviews to screen candidates for the next round of interviews,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources at Indeed Canada. “For some companies, phone interviews may also be the best way to interview out-of-town candidates and for remote positions, a phone interview could be the only interview format possible.”

READ MORE: 9 things you say in a job interview that will disqualify you for the position

And according to Angela Payne, general manager of Monster Canada, phone interviews are popular because they’re an efficient and easy way to gauge a first impression of a potential new employee.

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Preparing for a phone interview is much like preparing for in-person interviews, Wolfe says. But with this format, the focus is less on your appearance and more on your delivery.

“Remember that this will be a brief interview, so practice keeping your answers short and on topic,” Wolfe says. “Unlike in-person interviews, the interviewer cannot see body language or facial expressions, so your intonation, voice and responses need to convey your energy and enthusiasm for the role.”

“In terms of delivery, your voice is your number one asset,” Payne adds. “Make sure your voice is steady and confident and you’re speaking at a clear pace.”

These types of interviews may also include more surface-level questions about the job you’re applying for, Payne says. So if you anticipate a short interview, prepare to get your key points across early.

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So to help you prepare for your impending phone interview, Wolfe and Payne offer some tips to help you either move onto the next round of the process and/or land that job.

1. Take the call from a landline and in a quiet place

Landlines provide the best quality in terms of hearing the person on the other end, Payne says. You’re less likely to have to deal with any technical issues. But if you don’t have a landline, at least find a quiet and open space so that your cell signal is clear and there aren’t any noises in the background.

2. Treat a phone interview as an in-person interview

Phone interviews may seem less formal, but they are just as important as in-person interviews, Wolfe says, so be sure to prepare in advance and do your research.

READ MORE: Do this one thing after a job interview to better your chances at getting the position

Also remember this is likely to be your first impression on a potential employer, Payne adds. So communicate and follow up just as you would with a regular interview.

3. Dress accordingly

“Although your employer won’t see what you look like, getting cleaned up will help you get in the right frame of mind, just like you would in the workplace,” Payne says.

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4. Write down or highlight the skills the job description calls for

As you prepare, take note of the phrases and terms you might want to use in your responses, Wolfe suggests.

So if a position you’re applying for calls for data-driven problem solving, expect to be asked about your analytical skills, and make sure to include specific examples in your career that apply.

5. Prepare your answers to key questions

You may be asked important questions like, “Why do you want to leave your current job?” or “Are you willing to relocate for this position?” Wolfe points out.

“Think about these types of questions in advance and be prepared to talk through your experience and why you think you’re the best fit for the role.”

6. Stand up while speaking and make sure to smile

“Research has shown that you project your voice better when you’re standing up,” Payne says. “You’ll find yourself feeling a little more confident and knowledgeable too.”

And don’t forget to smile while speaking, she adds.

“Smiles are heard through your voice even though they can’t be seen,” Payne says.

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7. Have you résumé, cover letter and company information in front of you

Without a doubt, you will be asked about the experience listed on your résumé, Payne says, so make sure you have the details in front of you so you don’t stumble or leave anything out.

And don’t forget to research the company, Wolfe says.

“If you haven’t already, it is crucial that you research the company before your interview,” Wolfe advises. “It’s important to consider and highlight why you think the company you’re applying to is a good fit for you.”

8. Ask questions

Like you would for an in-person interview, prepare two to three questions you want to ask the hiring manager about the company and role, Wolfe says. This will show the recruiter your level of interest in the position and it will help determine if the company and job are a right fit for you.


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