Phone Interview Etiquette and Tips

In a face to face interview, it’s easy to tell if an interviewer is tuning you out if you notice them staring off into space or sending messages on their cell phone. On the phone, you (and the interviewer) are missing out on important visual cues. You can’t read the interviewer’s body language or see how they react to you. So, how can a job seeker really dial into an interviewer’s demeanor to tell if she’s bored, distracted or underwhelmed?

Here are a few tips on etiquette and how to prepare for a phone interview:

  1. Practice! The best way to prepare is to roll play the interview with a friend or your recruiter. Provide them with some practice questions to ask as well as your resume. Test different techniques while talking with them. You may also want to consider taping your conversation and listening to yourself afterwards. You may be surprised by what you hear! Finally, ask yourself, ‘Would I hire this person?”
  2. Find a quiet area where there will not be any distractions. In the absence of sight, hearing becomes sharper. And interviewers can easily hear distraction over the phone. Once you’ve scheduled a phone interview, locate a calm, quiet place where you can focus. Make sure you’re not near children, co-workers, a computer, TV or anything that will draw your attention away from the interview. Tell anyone who has access to the space that you are not to be disturbed unless catastrophe strikes.
  3. Next, have a pen and paper handy to take notes during your interview. You should also have a copy of your resume so that when the interviewer refers to your experience, you can both literally be on the same page.
  4. If you receive another phone call during your interview, do not put the interviewed on hold. It is imperative that you give them your undivided attention the entire time you are on the call. If for some reason you know you may have to get off the call, make sure you inform them of that before you get into your interview. For example, explain to them that you are expecting a call from your daughter around 3pm and you may have to take the call but you won’t be too long.
  5. Finally, consider your attire, particularly if you’re interviewing from your home. It’s your prerogative to wear sweats, but may we suggest something closer to business attire? You’ll feel more professional — and, thus, you’ll sound more professional.
The Phone Interview
  1. Make a conscious effort to sound upbeat and enthusiastic. You want to start your phone interview off right. And, because the interviewer can’t see you, they will be listening even more carefully.
  2. Smile. Interviewers can hear you smile — and smiling can put you in a better state of mind. (Don’t believe it? Try smiling when you’re in a bad mood.)
  3. Stand Up. If you feel your confidence wane, stand up. Standing can make your voice sound more powerful.
  4. Breathe. Always remember to breathe. It will help you stay calm and sound more relaxed.
  5. Sounds of Silence. A phone interview isn’t just about speaking. It’s about listening. To listen carefully, try closing your eyes when the interviewer is speaking so you can focus on what is being said. This technique can also help you read the interviewer’s mood. Is he interested and enthusiastic, or bored and distracted? Is the interview conversational? Are questions and answers flowing easily?
  6. Listen hard after your responses. Did your response prompt additional questions or make the interviewer hesitate? If the interviewer seems distracted, use one of the powerful questions you were saving for the “Do you have any questions?” section of the interview. A well-chosen question can re-engage him and put the interview back on track.

In-Person Interview Preparation

Know Yourself
  • Can you visualize yourself resigning from your current position?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your short and long term goals?
  • Evaluate yourself in terms of the position you seek. Why do you think you’re the best fit for this position?
  • Formulate responses by asking the question: “Why should they hire me?”
  • Remember that you’re there to sell yourself and secure a job offer.
Research the Company
  • The Internet offers a wealth of company information and industry statistics. Utilize it to review annual reports, trade magazines and articles.
  • Know the company’s products and services.
  • Be prepared to tell the interviewer why their company is attractive to you!
Items to Bring to the Interview
  • Clean copy of your resume
  • Samples of your work, if appropriate
  • Bring a notepad or portfolio to the interview to jot down notes.
  • Be prepared to provide references when requested, ideally with three former supervisors who are familiar with your work. Include their name, company name, relationship, as well as home and work phone numbers. Always consult with references for their approval prior to submitting their names.

The Interview

Arrival at the Interview
  • Arrive approximately 10-15 minutes before your interview
  • Make sure you know exactly where the interview is to take place. Take a trial run if you think you may run into traffic or other delays.
  • Review your notes and go in with confidence
  • If asked to complete an application, make sure you complete it fully; do not leave anything blank. (Do not write ‘see resume’ as a response to any application question. Respond to ‘expected salary’ questions as ‘negotiable’. If asked about your current salary, answer truthfully. List references if requested. Your recruiters name should be your response to any ‘referred by’ questions.
  • Be exacting in your responses.
Your Appearance
  • Overall appearance should be neat, clean and professional.
  • A conservative suit is appropriate for most positions. Example: A navy blue or dark grey suit, nothing loud or bright. Be sure your clothing is clean and pressed.
  • Shirts should be white for men, tailored and color coordinated for women.
  • A current tie with a subtle design is suitable for a first interview. Avoid loud colors and busy designs.
  • Shoes should be well polished, including the heels. Black is always a good choice for men, socks should always be worn over the calf. Ladies should avoid open toed shoes or sling backs. A closed toe pump that is color coordinated with your outfit is appropriate.
  • Jewelry should be kept minimal. Do not wear jewelry or pins that indicate membership in religious or service organizations.
  • Fingernails should be clean, simply manicured and avoid bright colored nail polish.
  • Hair should be neat, clean and brushed. Ladies should avoid exotic hairstyles and excessive makeup.
  • Avoid strong smelling colognes and perfumes.
  • Always turn off cell phones, or even better, leave them in your car.
The Interview Itself
  • Conduct yourself with confidence and determination to get the job done. You have other options, of course, and your interviewer knows this, but wants to think that you want a job with this company. Don’t play coy. Sell yourself. This is your first meeting and the position, as well as future promotions, may depend on your presentation. Are you going to sell them on the idea of hiring you, or will they sell you on the idea that this job is not for you? “You must present a positive attitude to the prospective employer. Do not behave as though you are disinterested or appear to be job shopping.
  • Remember to shake hands firmly and maintain good eye contact with the interviewer. Maintain a high energy level; sit up with your back straight; no coffee and do not smoke before the interview. It is to your advantage if a subject of mutual interest arises, but do not fabricate knowledge. Be yourself. Poise, confidence and self-respect are of great importance.
  • Human Resources will usually provide company information and available benefits. Thorough review and questions concerning benefits should be addresses after the interview during follow up conversations. Remember, the interviews are trying to see how you can contribute to the company.
  • Ask questions of the interviewers. This shows your interest in the company and position, and enables you to gather the right information to make an intelligent decision afterwards. The questions you have prepared can be asked of the different people you see.
  • Remember, the objective of the interview is to obtain an offer. During the interview, you must gather enough information concerning the position to make a decision.
Interview Conclusion
  • If you are sincerely interested in the position, make a positive statement about the position and your level of interest before you leave the room.
  • Ask the interviewer if he/she feels that you are qualified for the positions. Ask if there is anything in your background that you have discussed so face that would prevent you from attaining the position. This will give you the opportunity to review points that may need clarification.
  • If this opportunity meets your expectations, make sure you emphasize that this is the type of opportunity you have been looking for and that you would like to be considered for the position.
  • Illustrate confidence in your abilities and convince the interview that you are capable of handling the position successfully.
Thank You
  • It is always a good idea to send a short note of appreciation to thank the employer or interviewer for their time. Send an email or feel free to write a hand written note and drop it off with their receptionist. If not feasible, you can always send it through the mail. Be sure to get their business card so you have the correct name, email and mailing address.
  • Reiterate your interest in the position as well as your ability to do the job.  State the reasons you are interested.