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How To Prepare For The Phone Interview

How To Prepare For The Phone Interview

Will you look at that! The recruiter noticed your application and resume. You’re off to a great start! As a recruiter myself I know the online application system is not great. That being said if you have managed to get someone to see that you look qualified for a job they are hiring for (at least on paper) then you’ve completed step 1. And honestly it’s pretty high on the importance list of potentially getting a new job. Having your experience get noticed is a big first step. So congratulations! Now you have to start wowing someone and many times this happens with a phone call. Let’s take a look at how to prepare for the phone interview.

My Day Job

By day I am a recruiter. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. And if I am the one weighing in on my skills I’d say I’m pretty good. I’ve worked in an agency background where companies would pay me to find them the right candidate for their open job. I’ve also worked in a corporate environment where I am recruiting people to work for the company I work for. It’s been great having both of these experiences because I see the entire recruiting process from a wider angle. And to say that it’s frustrating for a job seeker is putting it lightly. I could go on and on about the way I’d run things but for now let’s stick to the job interview. Here I’ll share some of my 15 years of experience on how to prepare for the phone interview. In other articles I’ll share other areas of the interviewing process. The phone interview is pretty key – it opens the door to the in person interview.

You Got Noticed

So you started off on the right foot by getting noticed by someone at the company you want to work for. That’s a good start. This means that you’ve most likely got a healthy chunk of the experience they are looking for. That should be the first thing you keep in mind with the upcoming phone interview. You’ve got the skills they are looking for. That gives you a bit of power. Why you might ask? Because you have what they are looking for.

Think of this as the very important step one.

Getting Ready

Now let’s talk about the actual how to prepare for the phone interview. This will give you a step by step guide to feeling fully prepared to knock it out of the park and move on to the live interview.

Know Your Work History

Assuming your resume got you noticed enough for a phone call it should look pretty good. Now you need to make sure that you know your work history. If you’ve been in the workforce for 25 years like I have that doesn’t mean you need to know everything you did at every job. You should be able to walk through whatever history the recruiter wants to hear about and provide enough detail to highlight what skills you brought to the table. Something to point here: showing how your skills helped lead to positive results is great.

Let me tell you something that is infuriating to me as a recruiter. Having to pull every little piece of information out of someone I am having a phone interview with. When I ask for you to tell me the top 3 things you were responsible for at your current job don’t say one thing then stop talking. It’s amazing how many people don’t really think about what they do. “I create excel spreadsheets” isn’t enough. Why do you do it? Who do you did if for? What information are you putting into the spreadsheet? What purpose is it for? And most importantly, how does it help the company? See what I mean?

Know Your Unique Skills

We all have something we are really good at. It’s up to you to know what your unique skills bring to a potential employer. Mine is finding sales talent. I’m really good at finding, engaging, and recruiting sales people. Now there’s other things I do great also like building relationships. If I have to articulate my unique skill I know what it is. What’s key here is I also know how it helps a company. Most companies growth is driven by sales people. It’s absolutely key. I find them.

Know what your unique skill is and how it helps a company get better in some way.

Know the Company You are Talking To

Another place where people often fall down is not knowing anything about the company they are talking to. Again, I’m not suggesting you pull financials and prepare a 10 page paper on a company you study. What I am suggesting is you applied to this company for a reason. You should know something about them.

I always suggest finding out the overall structure and mission of a company. You’ll be in great shape if you know what a company does in general. You don’t have to know everything they do but be aware of at least a big portion of what they do. Check out the website, hunt down some articles, ask around, that sort of thing. Get yourself familiar with the company. This shows you cared enough to do some research for the call. It’s a big part of how to prepare for the phone interview.

Prepare Some Questions

I always recommend having some questions prepared. Now for most phone interviews you won’t get a chance to ask 30 minutes worth of questions. A good recruiter will allow at least 5 minutes worth of questions so make sure you have some prepared. Here are a few suggestions:

Is this a new position or replacement?

What are the 3 most important skills the successful candidate will bring to this role?

What is the company culture?

How long have you been with the company and why did you join?

How long has this position been open?

What is the companies overall business and how does this role fit into that?

Here’s what not to ask during the phone interview. How are the benefits and how much time off do I get? Don’t assume you have the job. Those questions are for later.

Practice Your Voice

No, I don’t mean warm up your singing voice. What I do mean is know how you sound on the phone. I know this may come as a shock to you but some people sound like they don’t know how to use a phone. They hold it too close to their mouth. Or they hold it too far away. Or they drive while doing a phone interview. Don’t do these things.

Ask a friend to provide you with honest feedback about how you sound on the phone. And then adjust accordingly. If he or she says you are hard to hear, practice with them until you are easier to hear. When I talk on a cell phone these days most of the time I use the speaker function. One of the first things I say to the person I am talking to is let me know if you can’t hear my clearly. And then I adjust accordingly.

You want your voice to come across as clear, steady, and confident as possible.

Know Your Value & Worth

It’s a good idea to know what your market value is. If you are a VP level at a giant corporate company that’s great. That might not translate to the same level, title, salary, etc., at another company. They are all different. What I mean mostly by know your value and worth is this.

We all know what we bring to the company in terms of our skill sets. We all also have our own sets of bills to pay. Don’t settle for less than what you feel you are worth. This is an individual choice. We all have different preferences. I just started a new role with a fantastic company. One of the things that is new to me and I absolutely love is working from home most of the time. Since I have a lot of other things going on in my life this is important to me. Know what’s important to you and make those a priority.

Be Thankful

So this part really isn’t about how to prepare for the phone interview. This part is more about wrapping up the phone interview. We all have a limited amount of time. How we choose to spend it is kind of a big deal. Make sure you take the time to be thankful to the person you are having the phone interview. Thank them for their time and let them know you are looking forward to hearing from them again soon.

Be grateful and be thankful.


There you have it, a step by step method on how to prepare for the phone interview. There are several critical steps in any job search. Step one is getting your resume/experience/background noticed. That’s huge. Step two is typically a phone interview. Sometimes this is skipped and you have a first meeting/interview. You can use the same process there but make sure you dress the part.


Next Day Job Interview: Prepare Tonight and Get the Job Tomorrow – Michael Farr and Dick Gaither

Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide To a Winning Interview – Thea Kelley and Orville Pierson

How To Ace An Interview – Gilbert Maynard

Happy Hunting!

Mat A.

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