It's internship-hunting season! It's that time of year where college juniors and seniors around the country are looking for summer internship opportunities. That means that the stakes are high and the expectations are even higher. Your resumé was great and you've landed a phone interview.
Don't sweat it. Luckily, I'm one of those college seniors seeking a summer internship and I've had some experience with a phone interview or two (or five). I've crashed and burned and I've continued to the next round of interviews with flying colors.
So, from one college student to another, here are 12 essential phone interview tips I've picked up along the way.
1. Prepare notes.
The great thing about phone interviews is that you can have a handy cheat sheet next to you and the interviewer will never know (just make sure you don't sound like you're reading your responses).
2. Research the company.
A great thing to include in your notes are some facts about the company. It may be a good idea to write down the company's mission statement so you can make sure that your answers align with their values. I find that recruiters love to ask what you know about the company before sharing their perspective. They want to know if you're someone who plans and prepares.
3. Research your interviewer.
If you know who is going to be interviewing you, it's a good idea to take a look at that person's LinkedIn page or their profile on the company website. I like to do this so I know the person's position with the company and how long they have been working there. This can help you decide what questions to ask the interviewer.
Some people recommend bringing up any commonalities you may have with the interviewer based on what you find. However, if I was the interviewer, I would find this sort of creepy so use your best judgment here.
4. Really read the job listing.
I recommend reading the job listing as much as possible because it should spell out exactly what the company is looking for. It's a good idea to print out the listing and highlight any skills or action verbs. Try to find ways to tie in those skills and verbs when you talk about your previous experience.
5. Do not try to multitask during the interview.
I know this one seems obvious, but I feel like it needs to be said. It's important! You will not seem professional if you do your phone interview while you are driving, walking your dog or heading to class. You might think you're being sneaky, but the interviewer will know if you're trying to multitask. Interviews are stressful enough, why make it harder on yourself? Set aside a block of time for your phone interview, just like you would with an in-person interview.
6. Dress for success.
This one seems kind of odd — let me explain. I'm not saying you should put on heels and a pantsuit for your phone interview. However, I would suggest changing out of your pajamas and into one of your favorite outfits. If you look good, you'll feel good and your interviewer will notice the confidence in your voice.
7. Think about how you will answer the phone.
This is a seemingly minor detail but first impressions are important. I would recommend answering with "Hello, this is (insert name here)." Make sure you say your name clearly or else you will defeat the purpose of saying your name at all. It's nice for the recruiter to know that they've called the correct person and it starts the call off in a professional way.
8. Prepare an elevator speech.
It's important to have an elevator speech (a short spiel about who you are, what you do and what you want to do). Most phone interviews, and interviews, in general, will start off with: "So, tell me a little bit about yourself." This is your time to give your elevator speech and impress the interviewer with your qualifications, skills and well thought-out career goals. It's a good idea to have a generic speech and then mention your skills that match the qualities that the job is looking for. This speech should be rehearsed but should not sound rehearsed.
9. Listen carefully and take notes.
It's usually pretty difficult to take notes while the interviewer is speaking in an in-person interview. However, it's a great idea to take notes during a phone interview. It will keep you from getting distracted by your surroundings and it will also be helpful to have those notes for the future since a phone interview is usually just the first step. This is the only acceptable kind of multitasking during a phone interview!
The interviewer will obviously not be able to see that you're smiling, but they will be able to hear it. If you smile when you speak, you will automatically seem more upbeat and friendly.
11. Ask thoughtful questions.
A good interview should be like a conversation. The questions that you ask the interviewer are just as important as the questions that they ask you. The questions portion usually comes right at the end of the phone call, so that is what the interviewer will remember most later on. Make your questions count! Ask things that you genuinely want to know about (while avoiding obvious faux pas like asking about salary or time off). Personally, I love to ask what the interviewer likes about their company.
12. Express your appreciation.
Thank your interviewer for their time at the end of the interview! It's also a good idea to send a thank you email or LinkedIn message.
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