Let’s Get You Ready for Your Phone Interview

Hiring Managers and Recruiters are Screening for Risks

They want to validate your qualifications and see if you’re a fit. The goal is to discover who you are, what you can contribute, what you know about the company, and why you want to work there. A phone interview can quickly get those answers.

Important: Likely, the phone interview will not be a long conversation. Most of the Recruiters are contacting several candidates. Yours is just one appointment time on their schedule. Practice your answers. Be succinct. Decide what information you want them to remember beyond what is on your resume.


Try your best to be relaxed. Interviewers may start with a casual conversation about the weather, schools you attended, your passion for the skillset, favorite vacation destinations, etc. Let them bring up topics. Take a deep breath.

Do your homework. Investigate the company. Go beyond their website. Find out what is going on in the industry – new trends – significant problems facing the company – their competition. It helps to be able to have an intelligent conversation focused on the industry.

Practice. Find some sample interview questions. Ask a friend or spouse to ask random sample questions. Record your practice answers and review them. Talk to a career coach about conducting a mock interview. Put yourself mentally in the position of the interviewer and consider their perspective of your answers.

During the Telephone Interview

Treat this with the seriousness of a real interview; it is not a chat. Create a conducive environment by finding a quiet place with a stable Internet connection. Try to avoid public wi-fi.

Get your submitted resume in front of you. The interviewer will have a copy to guide the discussion. Be ready to explain your work history. Make some notes about the contributions or improvements you added while in positions. It would be great if you had a “story” about what was going on when you arrived and how you made a positive difference. Above all, try to use some quantifiable terms, e.g., improved production by xx% or hired xxx new employees or served xxx customers during peak hours, etc.

Be ready to explain why you are seeking a different position and why you are interested in their company. Talk about how you could contribute to the quality and productivity of their mission.

Sit up straight to help project your voice. Have a glass of water handy, in case your mouth gets dry. Interviewing can be nerve-wracking.

Take time to briefly pause before you answer questions – get your thoughts together. Use this time to repeat the question back, assuring you understand the intended context.

Remember, the interviewer cannot see you, which means you must project your personality and enthusiasm through the phone. Smile often. Have notes and examples of your attributes. Please don’t read them, talk about them. Tell stories.

Typical Questions and How to Answer Them

Walk me through your resume – Tell me about yourself

At the phone interview, the person conducting the conversation may not be the hiring manager but someone in HR with no background in your area of expertise.

Your Answer: Focus on your skills and experiences. Describe your unique competencies. What you do well. The value you offer to the company. Think Present – Past – Future. Explain where you are now, what you’ve done in the past, and what you are looking forward to in the future – as it relates to the job.

What do you know about our company – why do you want to work here

Go beyond the company page. Talk about their reputation in the industry.

Your Answer: Talk about what you admire about their mission, products, philosophy, etc. (pick just one or two). Show any affiliations, company connections, or relationships.

Why are you job searching – What happened at your last job

Be honest. Speak well of the former company.

Your Answer: Have a short answer. Talk about any lessons learned. If applicable, talk about your future career goals and how this position suits your career goals.

Why are you the best candidate for the job

Interviewers want to know something beyond what is on your resume.

Your Answer:  Talk about your proven strengths. Be brief. Have two or three that support your abilities and a brief story or evidence of your capability. For instance, if you say you are proficient with analysis and research, talk about how your research was the determining factor in an investment strategy or product development. Or, if you provide excellent customer service, talk about how you established such strong relationships with customers, they frequently sought you out. Talk about your core competencies.

I’m happy to have a conversation about helping you prepare for your next interview or discuss how my career management services can help you “market your brilliance.” Contact me via email or set up a free 15-minute telephone consultation.

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Let's get you ready for your phone interview

Brenda Goburn Smith