I recently received a text message from a friend: "I have a phone interview coming up. What's your best advice?"

Here are my top four tips for mastering a phone interview:

1) Review the company's mission/vision statements and strategic plan.

Preparedness is key! Do your homework. Companies spend valuable resources and staff time developing websites, press releases, and official corporate documents so the public knows who they are and what they value as an organization. If you want to join their team, familiarize yourself with their mission and strategic direction. Align your skills and experience to their goals and priorities.

2) Remember "screening" is more than just your qualifications.

If you are offered a phone interview, the company/hiring manager has already determined that your qualifications are a match to their desired skill set. Your job is to confirm that you have what it takes and get them excited to meet you!

Smile. (Yes, they can really hear it!) Be positive, professional, and relatable. They are assessing your phone manners (what their clients will hear) and your general likability (what type of colleague will you be). Let your personality come out, but as with any initial interaction, limit humor or sarcasm which may be misinterpreted.

Express genuine enthusiasm for their company and the work they do. Be prepared with examples of your accomplishments and how they relate to what you can do for them, but don't give away the house...Make them want to hear more!

3) Whenever possible, make it conversational.

Phone interviewers typically use one of two styles: a) scripted inquisition of screening questions fired at you in rapid succession; or b) semi-casual, overview of the position and conversation to assess fit.

I prefer "b" for many reasons, not least of which is that it offers the best chance of building good rapport and differentiating yourself by letting your personality shine. When faced with an interviewer using style "a," I encourage candidates to attempt to convert the inquisition to a conversation by answering the question with a question. For example:

  • Interviewer: "What is your preferred team environment?"
  • Candidate: "I thrive in environments with a combination of strong team collaboration and individual autonomy and accountability. So, how would you describe the team culture at Company X?"

In doing so, you may create a more positive, engaging phone interview experience and also learn more about the company to help you prepare for the future, in-person interview.

4) Be confident!

Again, the company is interviewing you because they already believe you have the skills and experience necessary to do the job. Don't let your fears or self-doubt make them question their judgement. Be confident in yourself and in your accomplishments!

You have what it takes! Go out there and land that job!

Have other tips for job seekers preparing for a phone interview? Leave your favorite tip in the comment section!

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