Best of…(Job Interview Essentials) Acing the Phone Interview


How are phone interviews different from in-person interviews?


It is 9:45 in the morning, you’re still in your pajamas, and the phone rings. It’s time for an interview. This seems normal, right?

The fact is phone interviews are on the rise. Why? Quite simply, it is inexpensive, and it’s an easy way for the Recruiting Director to screen candidates efficiently. It takes more time and money – especially for out-of-towners – to interview candidates in person.

Having conducted hundreds of phone interviews, I can tell you candidates make a lot of mistakes. As you might imagine, the biggest one is that you happen to sound quite boring.

You lose a lot of personality when you talk on the phone versus meeting someone in person. When you add the fact that people tend to be more serious in an interview than in normal situations, the problem is compounded.

Here are some tips to ace that next phone interview:

1. Get your game face on

I’m not suggesting that you have to put on your two-piece suit, but don’t be sitting there in sweatpants and a t-shirt. Wake up early, take a shower and dress decently. If you feel professional, you are more likely to sound professional.

2. Talk beforehand

There’s nothing worse than picking up the phone, saying hello, and sounding croaky. For those morning interviews, make sure you have spoken a few sentences out loud (to yourself, your roommate, or your dog) before it’s interview time.

3. Go old school – talk on a land line

This may be tough for some of you, but you definitely want to get on a land line. Preferably a corded land line (remember those). I’ve had people’s cell phones go dead or suffer from such serious static that we had to cut the call short. Not a good way to go.

Also, make sure you are in a silent environment. Cafes, parks, or the bus don’t make for ideal interviewing locations. You won’t be as focused, and they can hear all that background noise.

4. Be overly animated

This is the biggest mistake most people make. As I mentioned above, phone interviews tend to be boring. Why? I don’t see the twinkle in your eye, and I can’t catch the smile or nod that you make. You’re a bit nervous to begin with, so you come off as monotone and personality-less.

Here’s what you do. Get excited! Stand up, talk with you hands and plaster a smile on your face. It sounds crazy, but it will work (just make sure no one is in the room with you – you’ll look like a fool). If you can get one of those Janet Jackson headsets, even better. Use both hands when you talk. You may think you’re going overboard, but when it comes through on the other end, it sounds so much more engaging and interesting. It helps you come to life.

Phone interviews can work to your advantage – if you do them right.


Brad Karsh is President of JobBound ( ), a company dedicated to helping job seekers with resume writing, interviewing, career coaching and landing that dream job. Author of Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider’s Guide to Landing Your First Job (Prentice Hall Press), Brad is considered one of the nation’s leading expert on the job search. Brad has been featured on CNN’s Paula Zahn Now, CNN Headline News, FOXnews Chicago and CNBC and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Fortune, The Chicago Tribune and many others.

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