How different is a phone interview from a one-on-one interview?  Often a phone interview is the first step in the recruiting process when the candidate and the prospective employer are not geographically convenient or when the cost of travel to get to the location isn’t warranted at this point in the process.  The employer’s goal is to screen people in or out of further consideration.  A phone interview allows the employer to determine whether the applicant has the qualifications for the position.  Your goal in a phone interview is to stop the employer from weeding you out and win a face to face meeting.

Preparation – Some job seekers take comfort in a phone interview as it seems less nerve racking than a face to face interview.  Don’t be deceived!  It is actually a bit tougher to make a good impression and stand out from the other candidates, as a voice on the end of a phone line. The employer can’t see your smiling enthusiastic attitude, but can hear every ah, um, er, you utter that are normal in conversation but are spotlighted through a telephone conversation. For that reason careful preparation is crucial.

  • Preparation Tips – 1) Be sure you know what time the call will be and adjust for any time zone differences; 2) Confirm who is calling whom and check to make sure the phone numbers are correct; 3) Find a quiet place where you will have good reception and not be interrupted; 4) Have your resume on hand, so you can talk about your job experience; 5) Have specific examples of your experience and skills ready; and 6) Avoid the temptation to write things down in advance and read from a prepared script as it impedes the flow of conversation.
  • Know yourself – Know why this particular position will satisfy you, know what qualities and strengths you can offer the organization, and above all know why they should hire you over other candidates. 
  • Know the firm/agency – Know the latest about the organization; know about their attorneys, cases, practice areas and culture. Take advantage of your ability to use reference materials during the interview.  
  • Know the position – Read and understand the job/internship description so that you know what the job entails and how you can respond to the company’s particular needs. 

The Interview – Since the interview starts as soon as you pick up the phone, have your interview voice ready.  You have only about 10 minutes to make a good impression.  Come across professionally, yet dynamic and enthusiastic on the telephone.  It is harder to be as animated on the phone as you may be in a face to face communication, but it is important that you convey both warmth and energy.  Engage in positive non-verbal behaviors; smile when a smile is appropriate to the verbal message.  Sit up erect at a desk or table – you will sound more alert this way.  Avoid being dressed too casually – no bathrobes or pajamas!  If you are dressed professionally it will help put you in the proper mindset.

  • Positive verbal behaviors for the phone interview include – 1) Project your voice; 2) Enunciate clearly; 3) Use complete sentences except occasional yes or no responses; 4) Use correct grammar; 5) Avoid pauses (silent pauses in many situations are a plus, but on the phone they lose their use as emphasis and come across as dead space); and 6) Speak at a comfortable pace – don’t rush but don’t let the conversation drag.
  • Phone Etiquette – If you have call waiting, ignore it or disable it during the interview.  Make sure your environment is quiet and professional.
  • Recommendation – Perform a mock interview with the Career Development Center before your phone interview. Practice is always helpful!