8 tips on nailing a phone interview

Phone interviews are more and more common; either as the first step, or the only step in the interview process. If you do not make a good impression on a phone interview, the chances are that you will never get an in-person interview. Here are 8 tips for handling your phone interview with finesse.

1. Prepare. You should prepare as much for a phone interview as an in-person one. This includes scheduling the interview (find out the time of call and clarify time zones; who is calling whom and on what number; how long the call should last; whether there are any specific requirements for the call; and who will be on it—get the name, title, and phone number). You should also analyze the job posting, identify key words, and match your achievements and experience to those key words, with specific achievements. You should also prepare for the questions you will ask the interviewers.

2. Practice. Practice answering questions out loud. Tape yourself if you can so you can see how you sound.

3. Use a landline, if available. Landlines are more reliable than cell phones; call quality is better too.

4. Remove distractions. Turn off your other phones, keep your fingers off your keyboard, put pets (and children) outside. Call from a private place—not from Starbucks or outdoors.

The Complete Guide to Interviewing for a Federal Job

5. Dress for success. Even though others cannot see you, you’ll sound better if you’re dressed as you would be for an in-person interview.

6. Slow down and smile. When you are nervous it is easy to talk faster, which makes you more difficult to understand. So talk a bit slower than you normally would. And when you smile, your enthusiasm will come through.

7. Consider placing empty chair near you when you are interviewing. “Talk” to the empty chair as if there was a real person sitting there. You may also want to consider standing up while interviewing on the phone. Your voice will sound stronger when your erect, rather than slumping in a chair.

8. Don’t allow “hi” or a mumbled “hello” to be the first words out of your mouth. Expect the call, and be sure to give your name when you answer.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.