5 Steps to Have a Great Phone Interview

October 29, 2019 Salvatore Florio Jr.

5 Steps to Have a Great Phone Interview

Without a doubt, interviewing can make the best of us uneasy. Interns applying to The Washington Center program face a different kind of interview challenge: the phone interview.

Since your potential employer is in D.C., you probably can’t conduct an in-person interview. It is typical for students to interview over the phone at multiple sites before accepting an offer. I remember feeling stressed about this as I had never done a phone interview before and was thinking how can I effectively sell myself over the phone? As I talked with other students, I learned that this is a common fear. However, with a couple of quick and easy tips, you will be able to master phone interviews in no time.

Tip #1: Treat It Like Any Other Interview

Just because it is a phone interview does not mean it should be treated any differently than a regular interview. So, do all the things you would do for an in-person interview! Research the site that you will be interviewing at -- learn everything you can about the site from their website. This includes mission statements, job descriptions/qualifications, and any large achievements that the site has made. Doing your research and knowing what you are talking about will show the interviewer that you are genuinely interested in the position. It also helps to review common interview questions and start to think about how you will answer them. Lastly, think of a couple of key situations that you have been in that best demonstrates your skillset and be able to call on these during the interview.

Tip #2: Clear All Distractions

Make sure you set aside a distraction-free time and place to conduct your phone interview. If you are doing it at home, like I did, make sure that you are in a quiet place with no noisy distractions (TV, outside noise, etc.). I recommend telling your family or roommates that you will be conducting a phone interview and need the house to be quiet for a certain amount of time. It is helpful to sit at a table or desk with your resume, any notes you have taken to help prepare for the interview, and a blank piece of paper to write down important info. Keep your space uncluttered as if it was a real interview.

Just because it is a phone interview does not mean it should be treated any differently than a regular interview. So, do all the things you would do for an in-person interview!

Salvatore Florio Jr.

Tip #3: Speak Slowly and Clearly

This may seem like a simple one, but it is very important. Since the interview is over the phone, it is essential that you are speaking in a slow and clear voice to ensure that the interviewer can hear your responses. It is easy to feel the need to rush through your answers, but this will hurt you in the long run as the interviewer will keep having to ask you to repeat yourself. It also doesn’t hurt to take a second to collect your thoughts after being asked a question to think of your response. Remember that there is no rush and that the clearer you are, the better you will be able to get your point across.

Tip #4: Ask Questions and Take Notes

I personally believe this is one of the most important tips. Throughout the interview, you should be continually asking questions as they naturally come up in the conversation. This can range from questions regarding typical days in the workplace to organizational questions or even simply questions to clarify a topic. I also recommend taking notes throughout the interview. Personally, through my phone interview with the U.S. Marshals, I was asking a lot of questions regarding what a typical intern workday was like and what I could expect to work on. Throughout this, I was taking notes as the interviewer was talking, specifically about the different divisions I would be working in. 

The reason that I stress this is because after I had finished the interview and accepted the position, the supervisor told me that one of the main reasons she knew I would be a good fit is because of the questions I was asking and notes I was taking. She could tell that I was passionate about the position and eager to learn more. Simply by asking questions, being attentive and taking notes, I was able to portray myself in a positive light that helped me land the internship. 

Simply by asking questions, being attentive and taking notes, I was able to portray myself in a positive light that helped me land the internship. 

Salvatore Florio Jr.

Tip #5: Confirm Next Steps  

Before you hang up, make sure that you have confirmed all necessary next steps including if you need to conduct any follow up interviews or when you can expect a decision by. Don’t leave the phone call not knowing if there is still another step in the process that you are unaware of. 

While phone interviewing can seem like a daunting task, it is not as bad as it may seem. By simply breaking it down into small and manageable steps, you will feel much more confident about the whole process. In no time, you will have mastered the phone interview; there is no better feeling than acing an interview and accepting an internship offer in Washington, D.C.!

About the Author

Salvatore Florio Jr.

Salvatore is a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where he majors in Criminal Justice. He is a Fall 2019 intern at the United States Marshals Service in the D.C Superior Court Division.

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