11 Tips To Ace The Phone Interview And Get One Step Closer To The Job

by Meredith L. Brown
The Wolf of Wall Street/Paramount Pictures

Phone interviews are a tricky terrain to navigate.

For people who aren’t good communicators or get extremely nervous in face-to-face interviews, they hear the words “phone interview,” wipe the sweat from their brow and call it a day.

You can hide things that you wouldn’t be able to in a real interview, right?

But, interviewing over the phone may offer more weaknesses than strengths. Phone interviews don’t allow you to read a person’s body language (or they yours), display your communication abilities effectively or so many other hiccups that can ensue when trying to prove yourself through a telephone.

Phone interviews, despite often being the first step in the hiring process, should be taken just as seriously as face-to-face interviews.

Because of all of these uncontrollable factors, you want to be sure that you are prepared, poised and confident that you can get through the phone interview.

Often, once you are able to navigate and handle a phone interview, the face-to-face ones are less daunting.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing for the biggest phone interview of my life for a job I really wanted. But, it was also my first phone interview ever.

With the pressure and anxiety building up with each day the interview came closer, I started on a quest to gather all of the tips, advice and words of wisdom from career service departments, professionals and professors so I could nail it.

Here's what I found out:

Study the job description

Make sure you are ready to answer “behavioral” related questions associated with the qualifications.

For example, if they reference, “must have presentation experience,” prepare to answer a question that specifically highlights your presentation experience (like a past project or a presentation for a job or internship.).

Also, be sure to research ALL concepts related to your field that are mentioned in the description. Don’t “hope for the best” and think you will be able to get away with not knowing what something means.

If they ask you about “white space opportunities” are and you become a deer in headlights, you will come across as not having done your homework. So, get Googling!

Get advice from your professional mentors

This can be a past professor at school, a professional in the field or a trusted friend who has been through multiple phone interviews.

The various viewpoints that each of these people will offer will help you form your own “study guide” of sorts for the interview.

Bring a copy of the job description with you so he or she can help you pull out key things on which you should focus. Write down the advice and reflect on it during your preparation.

Not only will these conversations help you prep for the technical part of the phone interview, but the extra words of encouragement will help you gain the confidence you need.

Don’t be too cookie-cutter

It can be easy for first-time phone interviewees to turn to the “STAR” method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) or another popular answering framework when preparing for a phone interview.

But, be careful; coming off too “cookie-cutter” can dilute your communication abilities and won’t allow you to take the listener in depth.

Stay on task in answering the question, but be conversational and eloquent in your tone and points. You don’t want to sound like you are reading from a slide prompter.

During the interview

First, find a quiet room in which you are comfortable and have no distractions. Lay out all of your materials in front of you (résumé, job description, notes).

Have a piece of paper and pencil and write down the questions as you hear them.

This will help to keep you from rambling and will allow you to follow through. But, most importantly, it will keep you safe from needing to ask, “What was the question again?”

Don’t get thrown. Take control!

Interviewers will ask you questions simply to see how you handle rough situations. They look for recovery. It might be a question you don’t know the answer to or a difficult question they pose to an answer you previously gave.

Either way, remember to take control and don’t get worked up in the moment because you don’t know the answer. Say, “That is a great question. Let me think about that…” and then take the time to think it through.

If something came across wrong, don’t continue to dwell on it. Bring the recruiter back to the question and readdress it to make yourself clear. You will actually impress an interviewer by your ability to not freak out in these tough situations.

Dress to impress

Even though you aren’t seeing anyone, there are scientific studies to prove that “if you look good, you feel good.”

Your favorite heels or your favorite suit can make all the difference in your confidence level.

This is the number-one resource for trying to make that wish of, “knowing what the interview will be like” come true. offers interview ratings for companies and include forums from people who may have interviewed where you are interviewing.

Being able to hear what others experienced from a company and prepare some of those questions will help give you an idea of what to expect (and hopefully calm your nerves). It really does give you a leg up.

Research your interviewer on LinkedIn

This is a question many interviewees want to know, and it is okay. Researching your interviewer will not only make you come across as prepared and interested in the position, but will give you information to ask compelling questions at the end of the interview when given the opportunity.

Don’t worry too much about the fact that they will see you viewed their profiles; they will find it impressive.

Your “ Five Power Stories”

Think of five situations or “stories” that can be framed multiple different ways. These five situations will be easy things to jump to for a question you aren’t prepared to answer.

Closing the interview

Be sure to ask, “What are the next steps in this process?” It gives you a piece of mind and shows the interviewer you are eager.

Also be sure to ask compelling questions about the interviewer and the job. For example, “Tell me about the team I would be working with”; “What do you like most about what you do on a daily basis?” or even reference an experience you saw from their LinkedIn page (through your research).

Send a thank you email (with something extra)

Right after the interview, be sure to craft an intelligent thank you email.

Be sure to reference topics you discussed in the interview, re-establish your passion for the company and position and include any supporting materials you may have referenced (or didn’t get the chance to mention).

For example, send over a presentation or a published piece of writing (only your best work, though). These last-minute materials will give the interviewer a tangible way to view your experience and capabilities.

Building a portfolio for the interviewer that communicates who you are beyond your voice and résumé really helps.