How to Survive a Phone Interview

Interviews are nerve-wracking enough, and when you add in the complicating factor of being interviewed over the phone? Yikes! You could be in for all kinds of awkward.

Without body language cues to help get your message across, take these simple steps to sound your most polished, prepared, and confident over the phone.

1. Stand up!

Our posture affects the way we sound over the phone, so get out of your slouch and stand up to feel more powerful. You’ll project that confidence right through your phone.

I was walking around my kitchen, pacing like a maniac when I nailed my first big interview. I was so nervous and excited, but I needed to channel that energy in a productive way that didn’t make me sound like a total blabbermouth. Standing up was the perfect fix.

2. Smile

Having a smile on your face – even a forced one – completely changes your vocal tone.

When we’re nervous, our muscles tighten and contract – even our mouths! But when you sound wound-up, you risk being mistaken as anti-social and unconfident. While the phone is still ringing (or you’re waiting for it to ring) plaster a smile on your face in preparation. Your entire sound will change, and some studies have even shown that it can boost your mood, too.

3. Prep with a Power Pose

By now it’s clear that your body position can affect the way you come across over the phone. But the real magic behind Power Poses is their ability to affect how you feel about yourself.

Before your call, spend at least 2 minutes assuming a high-power pose (my favorite is the Wonder Woman pose) while looking at yourself in a mirror. Your brain chemistry will catch up with your body language, and you’ll reverse-engineer your way to feeling confident and capable going into your call.

4. Breathe!

I don’t know about you, but when I get nervous, I start talking a million miles a minute.

A good habit I’ve gotten into with phone interviews? Taking measured, deep breaths and muting the line when I’m not speaking. You don’t want to sound exasperated (and sometimes a deep sigh can make you inadvertently give off that annoyed vibe!), but you do want to keep breathing deeply so you don’t sound like you’re answering questions to beat the clock. You want to sound at ease and calm, not gasping for your next breath. When you feel yourself speeding up, think “deep breath” and you’ll be able to stop yourself, take a breath, and carry on in a measured way. A sticky note reminder can help, too.

5. Know your bad habits

By now you know that when I’m nervous, I start fidgeting, talking fast, and forgetting to breathe. But not everyone has the same bad speech habits. Put yourself to the test with a mock scenario with a friend. Call a friend on the phone, hit ‘record’ on your computer’s Photobooth app, and record yourself practicing how you might answer interview questions.

You’ll learn so much by having a trusted friend give you feedback AND by playing back the tape to see how you sounded on the video recording. Is it painful? You bet. But you can’t change what you’re not aware of, so put yourself in the strongest possible position by learning what unique habits YOU are carrying into your interview.

6. Pause, think, then talk

Filter out filler words by getting comfortable with silence. We often fall back on filler words (like “um, uh, er, ya know,” and really any utterance that serves no meaningful purpose in your speech) when we try to respond immediately to a question.

When you’re asked a question, practice getting comfortable with a moment of silence as you gather your thoughts. Not only will you sound smarter once you do speak, but that silent moment can actually make you appear more thoughtful and intentional, as opposed to flippant and hurried.

7. Be ready to tell a story

Your interviewer already has your resume, so don’t bore them with a bullet-point-by-bullet-point run-down of your achievements. Instead, explain who you are and what you’re all about by telling your personal story.

In fact, you should come ready with a whole bunch of succinct stories that illustrate your values and past experiences that demonstrate your character and skills that are transferable to this new job.

8. Ask for feedback

The main reason the phone can feel awkward stems from the fact that you’re not getting any facial cues or body language feedback. So don’t hesitate to ask for it!

“Does that make sense?”

“Does that answer your question?”

“Are you with me?”

“Know what I mean?”

“Would you like me to expand on that?”

These are all good phrases to verbally check in with your interviewer and make sure you’re on the same page, check that they’re hearing you ok, and let them know you’re ready for their input. Use these phrases early and often, and then elaborate when necessary.

By making these simple adjustments, you’ll rock that phone interview like the boss that you are!

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