How To Knock A Phone Interview For A Job Out Of The Park

In today's fast-moving and increasingly remote job market, many recruitment teams are tasked with narrowing down a wide pool of candidates — and doing it quickly. With applicants from across the country or even the globe, open positions can have a lot of competition. Each corporate job opening receives an average of 250 applications (via Zippia), many of whom will be pre-screened before reaching in-person or video interview opportunities.

What does all this mean for your job search? For one thing, the sheer volume of applications faced by recruiters means that initial phone interviews are growing in popularity. It's no secret that many young workers hate phone calls (via Forbes), but while phone interviews can be intimidating, they're a growing reality of the modern job hunt. So you'll need to be prepared for that possibility as part of your application process. Whether you're just testing the waters of the job market or have already handed in a resignation letter to leave your current employer, here are ways to make sure you're ready for any upcoming phone interviews in your future.

Investigate the company and position

When applying for any job opening, it should go without saying that it pays to do your homework. If you enter a phone interview with no real understanding of the company, its industry, or the requirements of the role, you'll quickly be dismissed as a serious candidate. Interviewers want to know that you aren't just looking for any job — you're after this job in particular and feel strongly about joining their company.

Fortunately, this doesn't require weeks of research. To educate yourself sufficiently, start at the company's website. Read about their history, services, and review any written values or mission statements. Peruse their social media accounts, if they have any, and see what kind of topics they're posting about. Read and re-read the job description, until you feel like you understand the scope of the position. Consider reviewing a few of the company's top competitors, for context. And if you know who you'll be interviewing with, you can also scope out their LinkedIn profiles to familiarize yourself before the call (via Money). As the old saying goes, "Forewarned is forearmed." So the more you know in advance of the interview, the better armed you'll be to perform well in the call.

Prepare for likely interview questions

Just as you would for an in-person interview, you should prepare for a phone interview by thinking about your answers to likely questions. Whether you're talking with someone in recruiting and HR or a representative from a specific department, there are certain topics they'll probably ask about. Be ready to answer questions about your professional background, passions, goals, and reason for applying (via Indeed).

They'll also want to know what you can bring to the position. This may involve asking more detailed questions about your last role, your typical workflow, the way you interact with teams, or even providing test scenarios to find out how you would respond to different work situations. If you're applying for a position with direct reports, you can also anticipate questions about your management philosophy.

During the phone call, some interviewers may try to test your adaptability and quick thinking by throwing some curveballs at you. For example, a selection of recruiters told LinkedIn some of their favorite phone interview questions, which included "What are the top three tracks on the soundtrack of your life?" and "What do you want to be when you grow up?" There should also be some time at the end of the interview to cover logistical issues, such as your available start date and salary expectations. This is the time to ask your own questions, as well. And don't be shy. It shows recruiters that you are engaged, thoughtful, and serious about the job opportunity.

Practice good phone etiquette

Some rules hold true for any kind of interview, but phone interviews can be extra tricky to navigate. In a phone call, it's hard to read interviewers' body language, and all too easy to accidentally talk over someone. So to help the interview go as smoothly as possible, try to follow some basic rules of phone etiquette. First and foremost, listen closely to other speakers. You may even want to take notes while they're talking, to help you stay focused and follow the flow of the conversation.

Next, while you definitely want to get all your points across to sell yourself as a candidate, be careful not to interrupt anyone. Wait for a clear pause to begin speaking, and if you do inadvertently cut someone off, acknowledge it with a quick apology. And while it may sound like a strange technique, try smiling throughout the call, even though the interviewers can't see you. Smiling triggers the release of mood-boosting hormones in your brain, including dopamine and serotonin (via NBC News). This can help you manage stress and stay clear-headed throughout the call while projecting a cheerful attitude in each answer.

Get ready for the call in advance

If your interview is scheduled for 2 p.m., don't wait until 1:55 to pull out your phone and get ready. You're about to face a psychological challenge, so it's important that you set your brain up for success by giving it the time and environment it needs to perform well. Instead of rushing to get settled and stressing yourself out, prepare in advance by ensuring that you have a quiet, distraction-free place to take the call. Clear yourself enough space to sit and think comfortably, and have paper and pen handy in case you want to jot down notes.

Make sure you're feeling physically prepared, too. A little self-care and positive self-image can go a long way toward comporting yourself well, so freshen up and dress in something that makes you feel powerful and professional. A 2012 report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology identifies this effect as "enclothed cognition" and argues that our brains respond to both the physical experience and symbolic importance of any outfit. In essence, you can give your brain a boost by dressing for the job you want — even if the interviewers can't see you.

Finally, keep a glass of water, a phone charger, and any other possible necessities close to hand. You may even want to have your laptop open nearby, in case you need to quickly reference something about the job or company.

Follow up after the phone interview

Once you've hung up the phone, breathe a sigh of relief, because the worst is over for now. But that doesn't mean you should wash your hands of the matter and leave the rest up to fate. To help keep yourself at the top of interviewers' minds and cement your place on the call-back list, be sure to follow up with recruiters after the call.

This doesn't have to be anything pushy — a polite thank-you email is a great way to show professional courtesy without reading as desperate (via The Wall Street Journal). Express gratitude for the chance to talk during the interview, invite them to reach out with any additional questions, and let them know you're looking forward to speaking again soon. This message doesn't need to go out immediately after the call, but try to send it within the first 24 hours (via Robert Half Talent Solutions). This way, the good impression you made in the interview is still fresh, and you can reinforce their positive opinion of your candidacy.