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How to stand out in a phone interview

How To Stand Out In a Phone Interview | 5 Successful Examples

Thanks to COVID, most companies are operating remotely, which means you’re much more likely to have a phone or skype interview rather than an in-person interview. In fact, studies show that 88% of those who conducted interviews during the pandemic did so virtually. Basically, you can expect virtual interviews for the foreseeable future. 


I’ve had lots of clients come to me in the last year concerned because they know all the ins and outs of an in person interview, but aren’t quite sure how they measure up when it comes to being interviewed on the phone.


There are pros and cons to phone interviews. On the downside, you’re disadvantaged when it comes to reading the interviewer’s body language, which can make it more difficult to gage their reactions to your questions and answers. Taking interviews from home can also be more distracting, with people and animals getting in the way and making noise in the background. 


However, on the upside, you can spread out as many notes as you want in front of you, so you can be as prepared as possible. You have the benefit of being in your own environment, so you’re more comfortable and confident, and less stressed. 


Here are my favorite tips for how to stand out in a phone interview, so you can nail it and land that dream job! 

  • Do your research

Like in any interview situation, you want to be prepared. The interviewer will undoubtedly ask you questions that you want to be able to answer swiftly and calmly. You don’t want to be caught off guard. 


Start by researching the most common interview questions. You can expect some of the following:

  • What’s your greatest weakness?
  • Why do you think you’re right for this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?


These seem like big questions, but if you’ve given them thoughtful consideration ahead of time, and prepared your answers, you’ll come off sounding confident, rehearsed, and a good fit for the job.


You also want to do your research on the company itself, and the job description. It shows initiative and promise to the interviewer if you can mention details about the company that draw you in, or if you can tailor your responses to specific aspects of the job that you’d be well suited for. It also lets them know that you care, and are excited about the job — this can make all the difference between you and other prospects. It will also help you for the next step…

  • Ask good questions

Yes, you can expect the interviewer to ask you questions, but you should also show up prepared with a few of your own. This is where researching the company can come in handy. 


The benefit of a phone interview is you can prepare these questions ahead of time, and lay them out in front of you so you’re not struggling with what to say when they inevitably ask, so, do you have any questions for us? 


Try something along the lines of:


  • What do you imagine success in this role to look like?
  • What are the growth opportunities within the company for this role?
  • What’s the day-to-day environment like?


With these questions, you’re showing the interviewer that you’re interested and invested in the job, and take the option of getting the job seriously. And 78% of hiring managers say that enthusiasm (which you’re showing by asking smart and detailed questions) influences their final decisions. 

  • Get rid of distractions.

Find a quiet place. You don’t want any distractions during the interview, or when you’re preparing for it. Kids, dogs, significant others… try to eliminate as much as you can, either by going in a room with a closed door, or letting everyone in the house know you need the next hour to be quiet. It’s important to be as focused and professional as possible, and interviewers can tell if you’re distracted, even on the phone. I know I can always tell when someone on the other line is texting or reading an email and not fully engaging in the conversation.


You’re also going to want to avoid multitasking while on the interview. It might be tempting to just answer that one email while the interviewer is talking, but by doing this you’re actually lowering your ability to process information and be on your toes. In fact, studies show that multitasking not only makes you less productive, but also can knock off 10 IQ points in the moment. And you want all the brain power you can during your interview! Even though you’re on the phone, keep yourself focused on the interview as much as you would if they could see you. You wouldn’t text in the interview, so don’t do it here. 

  • Dress up

It’s easy to fall into dressing comfortably at home. Trust me, I’ve spent way more time in sweatpants and leggings in the last year than I used to. It can feel like there’s no reason to get dressed up when no one is going to see you, especially for a job interview.


While you want to be comfortable, there is something to be said for still getting into professional attire for your phone interview. You’ve probably heard someone say “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Turns out, science backs that up! Research shows that dressing for work, even when not in the office, improves productivity and performance


So even though you’re just on the phone, dress as though you were having an in-person interview. If anything, it will make you feel like the amazing, capable professional that you are, rather than just someone in their pajamas.

  • Keep an eye on the time

Unlike an in-person interview, which may run over if the conversation is flowing, a phone interview is usually scheduled pretty tightly. It’s likely that the interviewer has another call lined up, and can’t go over the predetermined time. It’s important to keep that in mind when you’re asking your questions — prioritize them so you get to the most important ones first, just in case the end of the call sneaks up on you. You don’t want to be the reason the interviewer is late for their next call.


Being prompt also goes for the beginning of the call — just how you wouldn’t want to be late for your in-person meeting, you don’t want to miss the recruiter’s call. Even if you call them back immediately, you’ve already made a bad impression before you even got started. A good way to avoid this is by setting an alarm, so you know exactly when to expect the call, and you can be ready.


Next time you’re asked for a phone interview, I hope you’ll feel more confident knowing that there are simply tricks to staying on top of your game. As long as you remember to stay sharp, professional, and focused, I know you can nail it! 


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