6 ways to ace a phone interview

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The next time your phone rings, could it be for an interview?

More and more businesses are choosing to book in a quick call as a first interview. Speaking on the phone gives a snapshot about what candidates are like, and how well they could fit into a company.

But even though you can’t see who you’re speaking to it doesn’t mean you should treat the whole process any less seriously than a face-to-face or video interview.

As we tell the job hunters we work with at HR GO, it’s still vital to be ready to talk about your background and skills, and be so good at persuading someone you’re the strongest candidate for the job that you land a second interview (hopefully meeting in person this time).

Here are six ways to do just that…

1: Be a note ninja

The beauty of a phone interview is that you can refer to copious notes to get your point across. Keep your cheat sheets simple, though, or you might not be able to find what you need quickly.

Consider having these different printouts close to hand:

  • A list of the attributes the job description asks for, and how you match them
  • A list of work achievements you’re proud of
  • Your CV
  • Smart questions to ask the interviewer and nuggets to weave in about the company

2: Do a dummy call 

Speaking on the phone seems easy and natural to most of us. But it’s still a good idea to ask a friend or family member to call you for a trial interview, and then record it.

It’ll give you a chance to get some honest feedback - perhaps you talk too fast, or too slowly, or use ‘erm’ or ‘OK’ more than you’d realised.

Plus, you can practice some common interview questions likely to come up. And since it’s taped, you can listen back and find what to improve on.

3: Get comfortable 

Obviously it’s best to do a phone interview somewhere quiet and private, with no distractions. But try to be in place ready for your interview at least 10 minutes early. It’ll help you clear your head, focus and get into the right frame of mind for what’s to come.

Even better? Ditch the dressing gown. Yes, you can do a phone interview in your PJs but think how much more on the ball you’ll feel - and perhaps sound - if you’ve put on some smart clothes for the occasion.

4: Make your phone professional 

Expecting to speak on your mobile? It’s worth recording a professional-sounding answer message in case you miss the interviewer when they ring.

And rather than mumbling a vague ‘Hello?’ when they do call, answer the phone brightly using your first name (for example, ‘Hello, Sarah speaking…’).

5: Use your ears 

Even though you’ll be replying to questions, it’s great to show listening ability too - after all, phone conversations should be two-way.

This means not interrupting, and allowing your interviewer to finish their question before you launch into an answer.

6: Trick nerves away 

Yes, your aim is to communicate clearly and succinctly, but what about nerves? Try these two hacks for appearing more confident, even if you don’t feel it.

When you’re talking on the phone, stand up or walk around the room. Being free to move can help to burn off nervous energy. And as you can use at least one hand or arm to gesticulate, your speech patterns will sound more natural.

Finally, even though your interviewer can’t see you, smiling when you speak actually makes you sound more upbeat and enthusiastic.

‘Fake it until you make it’ is how the saying goes, and this is never truer than with a phone interview. The big aim is to impress your interviewer enough to book in a second interview so they can see how amazing you are in person.

Then you really will need to change out of your PJs...

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