The Secrets to Geting Hired: How to Ace a Phone Interview

The first round of job interviews at a company is usually a phone interview with someone from HR. This interview is often called a screening and it determines whether or not you will be passed along to the hiring managers for the specific role. Phone interviews can be difficult – but here are a few tips for acing your phone interview.

Phone Interview Tips

1. Prepare ahead of time and prepare exactly how you would for an in person interview. People often assume that a phone screening will be “easier” than an in person interview or interview with a hiring manager, but it could actually be considered to be more important because your performance helps to determine if you will get to the next round.

2. Dress professionally. Don’t wear your pajamas, gym clothes, or sweatpants even if you just rolled out of bed, went to the gym, or sweatpants are all that can fit you right now*. I’ve always thought that how you dress can affect your demeanor and performance. I thought that it might just have been because I went to boarding school and they were strict about dress code, but then I read an interesting article about clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner’s theory regarding, “the psychology of dress.” You don’t have to wear a suit or anything overly formal but look professional and wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.

3. Don’t slouch – even if they can’t see you. The psychology of body language is fascinating. For example, having good posture and sitting up instead of slouching gives the impression that you are confident and in control. Don’t fidget your hands or arms because it communicates that you are anxious or bored. Crossing your arms sends the message that you are closed off, annoyed, and unfriendly. Even if they can’t see you, your tone and demeanor will still be affected by your body language. Another tip is to smile while you’re on the phone because it will make you feel and sound happier and more confident. Extra Credit: Read The Ultimate Guide to Body Language and What Every Body is Saying. Watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk. Sit or stand. Try not to walk around or pace back and forth because you may get distracted.

4. If you can, pull up the interviewer’s LinkedIn photo or company bio so that you can feel a connection to the person and you don’t feel like you are talking to a black hole. I learned this trick at an old internship. The person wasn’t on a job interview but he was on a phone interview and it helped him feel a connection with the interviewer.

5. Keep out your notes and the job description. Don’t read them word for word but if having them there makes you feel more confident, by all means go for it! You can also jot down a few notes during your interview so that you can reference specifics in your thank you note.

6. If you can, go somewhere quiet where you can focus only on the interview. If you work from home or don’t have a job yet, take the call from home and try to minimize any distracting noises. If you have a job already and have to schedule the interview during the work day, schedule the interview around lunchtime and go somewhere as quiet as possible. Don’t book a conference room at work, go to the coffee shop where your coworkers usually go, or walk a few times around the block. It can be really uncomfortable if people from work know that you are searching for a job so try to keep it private. Go to quiet (and further away) coffee shop, a bench in a quiet park, or your car if you drive to work.

7. One of the difficulties about phone interviews is that you can’t see the person’s reaction. Try not to have long-winded answers. It is best to keep your answers concise and simple without going on a tangent just because you can’t visualize the interviewer’s reaction.

8. Wait two or three seconds before answering the question. This gives you time to collect your thoughts and it also prevents you from accidentally interrupting and starting your answer before they were done asking the question.

9. Similar to any other interview, you should ask questions, thank them for their time, write a thank you note, and follow up!

*Mean Girls reference.

The Secrets to Getting Hired: How to Follow Up On a Job Application

You applied to a job… and now there is radio silence. Applying to a job online can feel like a black hole where you almost never hear back. Here are a few tips for following up throughout different stages of the application process.


How to Follow Up On a Job application

After You Submit Your Application: If you applied online you can, and should, follow up. A lot of companies use Applicant Tracking Systems and it is possible that your resume didn’t get to a real person because your it didn’t include the specified keywords and phrases. (Read this for tips on Applicant Tracking Systems). Find the contact information for the HR person and send them an email telling them you applied. Attach your resume and cover letter. If you know someone who works at the company, send them a quick email to let them know that you applied. Hopefully they will put in a good work with HR or, at least, make sure your resume gets seen by a real person.

Right After You Have an Interview: The first step is to send a thank you note! I’ve heard a lot of people debate whether to write a handwritten thank you note or send an email. I think that you should send both. Write a thank you email and send a handwritten thank you note. The handwritten thank you note may arrive after they’ve made the decision so be sure to send an email right away so that they know you followed up and are interested in the position. If you feel awkward writing the handwritten note as well just say something like, “I just wanted to follow up with a handwritten note…” Your thank you note should accomplish a few things. You should thank them for their time, mention something you learned in the interview, reiterate your interest in the company and why you’d be a good fit, and mention that you are happy to answer any further questions or provide more materials.

The Waiting Game: You should follow up again. It shows that you are interested and passionate about the opportunity but be patient. I know that it is really stressful and frustrating to not hear back from a position right away. You are interested in the opportunity and want the job! Don’t assume that you didn’t get the job because you haven’t heard back right away. There are so many factors that go into the decision making process. Hopefully one of your questions during the interview was asking about the next steps and the timeline for the hiring process. Don’t follow up until the time that the interviewer said it would be appropriate to follow up, but follow up with the time comes. Write them a quick email to thank them again for their time, reiterate your interest in the company, then ask about the next steps of the interview process.

Other Times to Follow Up: Follow up if something in your application has changed, if something exciting has happened for the company, or if you’ve received another job offer. An example of something in your application changing might be getting your transcript and finding out you made Phi Beta Kappa or graduated summa cum laude. You can also follow up if something exciting has happened for the company. For example, when I was interviewing for Likeable, I saw that they were awarded #6 on Crain New York Business’ Best Places to Work list so I emailed the HR person to say congratulations. If you’ve received another job offer, but you’d prefer to work for the company you are waiting to hear back from, you can be honest and tell them. Say something along the lines of, “Since we last spoke, I received an offer from X but working at Y company is still my first choice. I wanted to check in on the hiring process and see if I could provide you with any further information.

If You Get the Job: If you get the job, follow up with anyone who helped you get it. When I write recommendations for people, I love knowing that they got the job! Some people even follow up months into the job to say thank you and it makes me so happy every time!