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5 Tips You Need To Know To Win That Phone Interview

Nick Dolding

In Part 1 of this series, we got you squared away with some basic phone etiquette when it comes to setting up your voicemail with a professional incoming message.

Congratulations! That was 2 minutes well spent. We also set you straight about actually leaving a message when you call someone you don’t really know, so they can easily figure out who the hell it was who called them since, believe it or not, not everyone knows who you are and they don’t have you as a contact either (even if they called you first). If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go back and read Part 1.

As proud of yourself as you might be for following these steps in rudimentary phone sensibility, you still have a ways to go, young grasshopper.

What do you mean I have a ways to go? Isn’t setting up my voicemail and learning to leave messages enough?

Unfortunately for all of us, no. I’m referring to a real life conversation (or interview) on the phone that is going to take place at some point with someone other than a friend or family member, as well as the steps leading up to it.

No! Not that! Anything but that!!

Yes, that. The dreaded phone call where you can’t just leave each other messages trying to get the point across. You actually have to talk to someone you don’t know with maturity and professionalism.


Buck up, trooper. It’s really not that bad. But there are some tricks to the trade that can make calls with a potential employer, go much smoother and make you sound much more impressive than you really are. Just kidding, of course you’re impressive. That’s why you don’t want to screw the pooch on the phone and not get the chance to show an employer how truly awesome you are, and why they would want you to work for them.

So, here are a few more rules that will help you own the phone:


1. Don’t miss the call. 

Assuming you have a phone interview scheduled with a recruiter or hiring manager, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, MISS THAT CALL. This call is likely their first impression of you, and it’s a ginormous red flag if you miss it. You don’t want an employer thinking you’re a forgetful, unorganized hot mess when that may not be the case, right?

But, what if I do accidentally miss the call?

Odds are good you might be screwed, but out of professional courtesy, you should call that person back and apologize for missing the call. Who knows? They may be up for giving you a second chance. Oh, and by the way, if you decide before the call that you aren’t interested, don’t just ditch the call (a.k.a. burn the bridge). Reach out to them as far in advance as possible to let them know you had a change of heart; they’ll appreciate the courtesy. You never know when your paths may cross again (and it will!) so create as many allies and champions as you can.


2. Know your schedule. 

Don’t set up a call that is going to occur in the middle of your class or during the 15 minute break between classes when you’re trying to hoof it from one end of campus to the other. Nobody wants to hear your heavy breathing and the wind whooshing through the phone making it hard to hear anything, only to drop the call anyway because you hit the dead zone on campus. Schedule it for a time when you know you’ll be in a quiet place, where you have good reception, and will be able to talk uninterrupted for at least half an hour.


3. Anticipate the call. 

Don’t answer the phone with a mouthful of food or while you’re brushing your teeth, and don’t even think about taking a nap right up until the phone rings. You should be waiting for the call about 10 minutes in advance just in case it comes in a few minutes early. We can tell when you just woke up by the groggy, confused sound in your voice. And who cares if your breath stinks? It’s a phone interview!


4. Preparation. 

They don’t call it a phone interview for nothing. Any time you interview you want to be as prepared as possible so you can tailor your answers to their questions. Also, nothing screams “I don’t know a damn thing about your company” more than when a recruiter gives you a chance to ask questions and you don’t have any. Do your homework on the company, and if possible, the person you’re interviewing with so it sounds like you actually care about your future. Not sure what to research or ask? Check out the Career Resource Center on Athlete Network for some interviewing tips and suggestions.


5. Be energetic! 

I’ve talked with a lot of people who looked pretty decent on paper and probably were quality individuals, but were complete duds when it came to enthusiasm on the phone. Low energy is usually a no go for most recruiters and employers because they want people who can help lift a team, not bring it down (big reason why you don’t want to take a nap right before the phone interview).

Tip Of The Day: Only 80% of your enthusiasm comes across the phone.

We have what we call the 80% rule, which is that only 80% of your enthusiasm comes across the phone line. So that means you need to give the proverbial 120% when trying to show someone you’re interested in the opportunity. You don’t have to be a spaz, just use some of the same energy verbally that you add to your texts with all the exclamation points and smiley, winky faces!!!!! ;-)

Speaking of smiling, that’s a great way to sound better over the phone. Try this experiment: smile and say “Hi, how are you today?” Repeat the same sentence frowning. You may need to record yourself, but you’ll notice a dramatic difference. You should also stand up when doing a phone interview. Sitting constricts your diaphragm making it hard to project your voice with enthusiasm.

Remember, this is only your future we’re talking about here. If you don’t take the rules of the phone seriously, you’ll get your butt kicked and will have to learn the hard way. Take some time to get yourself in the right frame of mind for a game much bigger than any you’ve played in up till now. 

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