One of the surprising things that I have learned in coaching executives at all ages in gaining new or different employment is that most of my clients have given little thought to effectively conducting a phone interview. Most of their concerns revolve around the live, in-person interview.

This is doubly surprising as most interviews, be they initial or later stage interviews, take place by phone or Skype.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your next phone interview (some may seem obvious, but they bear repeating):

  • Be at your phone on time. It is best to have agreed that you would call at a specific time so that you can have at least a modicum of control over the call. Answer it on the second or third ring with a pleasant (“Hello, this is Peter Engler”) and slightly formal answer. Have a glass of water at hand and, perhaps, have taken some honey or a lozenge to smooth your voice. Also, remember to “wake up” your voice before the call if it takes place in the morning.
  • Do the call from home or a quiet place. A landline is best, as you may have a bad cell connection and not realize it. Ensure that no family members or associates (or pet dogs) are liable to interrupt your call.
  • Dress in business casual (shirt with collar), especially with Skype. If using Skype, conduct a practice session to see how you look including the appearance of the background. Have an uncluttered wall as background. Dressing will help ensure that you are in a “business mode.”
  • For non-Skype interviews, stand up and smile during the interview. Put up a picture (of them if possible) and speak to it. You will sound more energetic and powerful and will likely be more focused regarding your comments.
  • For Skype interviews, sit back a bit so that you are not looming over the screen, especially if you are male. Be sure your lighting is good. Move around a bit so that you do not appear to be stilted or too intense.
  • Answer the questions completely but briefly. Avoid extended responses. Respond directly to the question and provide data to support (I improved profitability for my product line by 6%) your responses.
  • Speak in an assured, confident, but attentive fashion. Let them guide the conversation but look for opportunities to take the lead (“Can you tell me what the key challenges of this job are?”, “What are successful people in your company like?”, “What attracted you to the company?”).
  • Be prepared for key questions like, “Tell me about yourself.” Keep your responses brief, targeted and thoughtful. Don’t simply recite your resume; explain how you work, what success looks like to you, how you engage with people, what you take particular pride in doing, etc.
  • Avoid letting the call lose energy, which is more likely to happen in a phone interview. Keep your responses and comments focused, brief, energetic, and informative. Smile into the phone, chuckle a few times. Be “human”─all they know of you is your voice and your resume. Remember that a phone interview may be conducted by a junior Human Resources employee, and therefore, they may not be an effective interviewer. Help the process along as best you can.
  • Have your resume, notes, job description and other applicable items on hand. Also, ensure you have thoroughly thought through the job requirements and have written down bullet points that clearly qualify you for the job.
  • At the close, ask how it went. Doing this illustrates your level of interest as well as your ability to keep a business relationship moving forward. It is also a good way to learn, right then, what the potential is for additional interviews. Should the interviewer actually note some concerns at this point, gently respond to them or suggest a follow-up conversation to respond to their concerns.
  • Enjoy yourself, be present, and go for it. You will do fine if you prepare and think about your answers before speaking!