Phone Interview Tips: How to Ace A Phone Interview

Even though all collegiettes have their popcorn-chomping, Wii-loving moments, the majority of us are pretty serious about post-grad life. In fact, a CNN article about college students and the state of the job market confirms a trend that is already well-known to many: that an internship experience seems to be a prerequisite for any long-term, post-grad job.

If you’re a self-proclaimed “internship queen” who has a resume a mile-long, but still needs help honing her phone skills; or if you’re hoping to ace your first ever phone interview, check out this Her Campus guide on how to ace a phone interview. After looking through these tips from HC and college experts alike, you should be well on your way to making your next long-distance interview seem closer to home!

Before the interview


As we all learned from Lady Gaga’s song, “Telephone,” it’s never a good idea to hold important conversations in the club (or in jail.) And if you, like Gaga, wouldn’t talk about something that really matters in a place where you can’t hear a thing, where you don’t have a lot of service and when you’re kind of busy, why would you conduct an interview under similarly inopportune circumstances? So unless you have a burning need to speak to Beyoncé…

Find a good place to talk at home

If you decide to have your interview in a comfortable space such as your dorm room or apartment, make sure that you have a good connection and that your surroundings are quiet. Don’t speak to your interviewer in a place with a television blaring in the background, a jackhammer going off outside of your window and poor service. Also, give your roommates a heads up. Let them know that you have an interview on a specific date at a specific time, and remind them about it as the time comes closer. They’ll appreciate your not chewing them out for bringing friends over if you remind them in advance.

Find a good place to talk on campus 

On the other hand, if you’d prefer not to talk to talk at home, start thinking of places where you can talk without any interruption as soon as you and your interviewer have scheduled a day and time to talk. Most career centers have small conference rooms for on-campus interviews with prospective employers, so ask someone at the front desk if you can reserve a room for your phone interview. Doing so will give you the chance to talk on a reliable landline and even to feel more official and prepared. If you’re the one making the phone call, just make sure that you know how to use the campus telephone since dialing out can be tricky. If you’re receiving the call, don’t forget to send your interviewer an email with the new number he or she should call.

Organize your paperwork

You wouldn’t go to an in-person interview without a few copies of your resume, a notebook and something to write with, so make sure to have all of those things together when you’re on the phone. Alexandra Patterson, a remote administrative/human resources intern at Her Campus who had to interview on the phone because she is abroad this semester, advises students not to slack off on telephone interviews just because of the long-distance component. “Take it seriously!” she advises. “Just because you’re not in an office, doesn’t make the interview mean any less. Prepare just like you would for a normal interview: know the company objectives, know what the position description is and come up with a few questions.”

Additionally, even though you can more easily sneak peeks at your CV without your interviewer noticing, you should be familiar enough with your own work history so that you don’t pause every time a question is asked. We all know what it’s like to talk to someone who isn’t fully present on the phone, and chances are that your interviewer will pick up on your uncertainty, even without seeing your shifty eyes.  So make sure you know what it says on your own resume!
Prepare questions for your interviewer

One of the most difficult parts of an interview is when your interviewer flips the script and asks if you have a few questions of your own. If this is something you’ve struggled with in the past, or if you’re just looking for a few new ideas, check out this HC article on the best questions to ask during an interview. Come up with a good list of your own, pin it to a tack board in your room, tape it to your desk or even keep a copy in your wallet if your interview is off campus. You don’t want to waste all of your hard work by rummaging through stacks of paper or in your backpack when the time comes for you to take charge.

Don’t forget the little things

If you’ve never had a phone interview before, make a checklist of all of the small things you can do to be as comfortable as possible when the time comes. Andy Harber, a career consultant at Washington University in St. Louis, suggests that students do small things such as using the bathroom or tidying up their personal space before they start talking. It’s perfectly natural to be nervous about the big things (having a good connection, being organized, getting the job!) but try not to let the small things make you sweat. Here is the consultant’s list of smaller matters you should take care of in advance:

To prepare for a phone interview

  • Confirm the time zone
  • Eliminate background noises and distractions
  • Dress as you would for an in-person interview
  • Use the bathroom beforehand
  • Have a glass of water nearby