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7 phone interview tips to impress hiring managers

Phone interview tips

Your resumé scored you a job interview, but the hiring manager wants to conduct it by phone, something employers often do to prescreen applicants. How do you distinguish yourself?

Sandra Abbey, an MBA program instructor at the University of Phoenix Southern Arizona Campus, offers seven tips to impress an interviewer on the other end of the phone line:


Use a cheat sheet.

Take advantage of the fact that the interviewer can’t see you. Keep notes and documents handy for quick reference to guide your comments throughout the conversation, Abbey suggests. Your cheat sheet, she adds, can include your resumé and cover letter, as well as prepared answers for likely questions.

“I’m not recommending you read those verbatim,” stresses Abbey, a former human resource director. “But you can have them in front of you to help you make your points — something you can’t really do in a face-to-face interview.”

Take the call in a quiet area.

“Go into a room where you can close the door,” Abbey advises. This ensures that the hiring manager will be able to hear you, and it helps minimize any background noise, such as barking dogs, that might otherwise distract you and make it difficult to concentrate on the interviewer’s questions.

Make sure you have a reliable telephone.

Spotty cellphone service caused by weather or other signal interference could cut into the hiring manager’s questions or your responses. Even worse, you could waste limited interview time trying to retrieve the dropped call. Cellphone earpieces also tend to make sound volume fade in and out.

If possible,” Abbey emphasizes, “do the interview from a land line.”

Dress like it’s an in-person interview.

You certainly can get away with staying in your pajamas during a phone interview. However, Abbey says, it’s better to get dressed. Wearing casual business attire puts you in a more professional mindset, she believes, and helps you focus better on the interviewer’s questions and provide more concise, confident answers.

Pace your words.

Don’t talk too slowly. “If you sound like you’re half asleep,” Abbey says, “then unfortunately, I [as the interviewer] make the connection that you’re not going to be productive on the job.”

Alternatively, if you speak too fast, the interviewer may miss key points you want to convey, she adds. Her most surprising advice: Your comments will flow more naturally if you walk and gesture while you talk. “It can help make you sound more personable,” she says.

Use silence to your advantage.

An interviewer may stop talking briefly before continuing with another thought, but a pause also could mean it’s your turn to speak. When a delay occurs, Abbey recommends waiting one second before saying anything. She notes, “You’ll avoid interrupting, but it also gives the signal that you are being thoughtful about your responses.”

Don’t try to joke your way into a job.

Body language accounts for 55 percent of your meaning. Without such cues as a smile or an arched eyebrow, interviewers on the phone can easily misinterpret the tone or meaning of a lighthearted comment because they can’t see you, Abbey stresses.

“Unless you’re a professional comedian or actor,” she says, “I recommend you don’t attempt to joke.”

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