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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

5 Steps to Pulling Off a Successful Phone Interview

person smiling and talking on the phone
izusek/Getty Images

If you’ve ever been in the market for a new job, chances are you’ve had your fair share of phone interviews. And while taking a call can be a lot more efficient than going to all the effort of meeting in person, phone interviews can also be extra challenging if you believe you make a better impression face-to-face.

No matter what type of phone interview it is—an initial screener with a recruiter or human resources team member or a more in-depth conversation about the role and your background with a hiring manager—there’s plenty you can do to be prepared and feel confident when your phone starts to ring.

Follow these dos and don’ts and you’ll ace your next phone interview.

infographic illustrating the 5 steps to successful phone interview

1. Get Your Go-Tos Ready

Do have these essentials close at hand:

  • Your phone (of course!)
  • A phone charger
  • A glass of water
  • Your resume (and cover letter, if you submitted one), in case the interviewer refers to something on it
  • Your laptop or a pen and paper, for taking notes

Don’t take the call where there’s a lot of background noise (a busy coffee shop, next to the open window while your neighbor is mowing the lawn or there’s construction on your street). It’s distracting to both you and the interviewer, and you don’t want anything getting in the way of having a focused conversation.

2. Do Your Research

Do prepare a few bullet points on the company. What’s their mission? Who are their competitors? What’s new at the company? (For the last one, you can do a Google News search and check the press section of their website.)

Don’t forget to look up your interviewer, too. How long have they been with the company? What have they worked on? Do you have any mutual connections on LinkedIn?

Do have questions ready. At some point, you’ll probably be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” Prepare a few in advance—about the role, the team, the company culture, whatever you genuinely want to know. Of course, you can also jot things down as they occur to you during the call to ask when the time comes.

3. Make Your Voice Count

In the absence of visuals (facial expression, body language), your voice will be pulling double duty to convey social cues. With that in mind:

  • Do smile. The most common phone interview mistake is sounding tired, bored, or disengaged. Smiling, gesturing, or even standing up can help inject energy and enthusiasm into your voice.
  • Don’t interrupt, and be sure to speak slowly, so that your words come across clearly.
  • Do keep it professional. Pro tip: Instead of trailing off with “ yeah…” at the end of your sentences, wrap up your thoughts with something clear and authoritative: “And that was how I solved Problem X.”
  • Don’t chew gum or eat during the call (please!).
  • Do let your personality shine!

4. Send a Thank You

Not sure what to say? Check out our template for writing the perfect post-interview thank you email. Oh, and do be sure to send your note within 24 hours of the interview—preferably the same day.

5. Be Patient

It’s OK to ask at the end of the call, “When can I expect to hear from you next?” or “What are the next steps in the hiring process?” Just know that you won’t always hear back right away. After you send your thank you email, do wait at least a week before following up again.