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Tips for succeeding at a phone interview

18th September 2019

Professional woman writing in a notepad

During your job hunt, whether it’s for a paralegal position or for lawyer jobs in London, you may be offered a phone interview before you’re invited for a face-to-face meeting. Although this is a quick and easy way for both you and your potential employer to see if you’re right for the role, it can also be a daunting experience. In this guide, we provide you with the tips and advice you’ll need to be able to succeed at your phone interview.

Learn about the company

Notepad and laptop

Preparation is key when it comes to interviews, and ones carried out over the phone are no different. Make sure you have thoroughly looked at the employer’s website, to find out their USPs, mission statement and a bit about the company history. Even though you’re more likely to be asked about the specific role, proving you have researched the whole company will make a great first impression.

It’s also worth paying close attention to the company culture, so if the question ‘what sort of work environment do you thrive in?’, you’re able to make your answer relevant to the company. Don’t stop your research at the website, be sure to look at employee reviews online and any press. Jot down a few notes on your findings to keep as reminders during your interview.

We asked Corina, a job interview strategist who runs the blog Chasing Our Financial Freedom, for her advice: “My top tip for someone who is interviewing on the phone is to conduct detailed research on the company. This will help you to find pain points or challenges that the company is facing and which the candidate can solve with his or her experience and skills. Have these written down next to you during the phone interview.”

As well as researching the company, be sure to re-read the job description Corina continues: “Read the job description several times and outline some of the most important requirements. Then, write down some past experiences and achievements which translate into those requirements.”

Prevent any distractions

Man on a desk

Make sure you’re not going to be interrupted by any other commitments or noise during your phone interview as this can make you look unprofessional. It’s best to take the phone call at home, remember to shut windows to prevent traffic noise and let the people you live with know to keep the noise down. It’s also important to mute the phone you’re using for the interview to avoid any disruptive notifications.

For most people, sitting at a desk or dining room table is the best option, as this will help you feel in the professional mindset. Plus, you can lay out your CV, cover letter and notes nearly in front of you.

We spoke to Kamila from London New Girl, a London lifestyle blog, about her top tips for phone interview success. She says: “Find somewhere quiet and try using headphones with a mic so that your hands are free to move around while you're talking - it'll help you to speak more naturally and be less distracted by the sounds around you.”

Dress as if you are interviewing face-to-face

Man dressed smart

Dressing the part can make a huge difference to your confidence. Plus, in the unlike occasion that the phone interview gets switched to Skype, you don’t want to be caught off guard in your loungewear. In the morning of your interview, dress and shower as if you were heading into work in smart attire.

Just like dressing the part, you should also be aware that your body language can be picked up on through the phone. When you speak, make sure to sit upright and smile when necessary, as the interview will be able to sense your enthusiasm!

We spoke to Holly from The Work at Home Woman, a career blog, who advises: “Many of the steps that you would take for an in-person interview are also applicable when you do a telephone interview. Because phone interviews are isolated and lack the visual elements that you would have in a traditional interview, you need to up the ante, so you come off as interested, engaged, and enthusiastic. To help get you in the right frame of mind, dress up, do your hair, put some makeup on, and prepare as if you were going to live an in-person interview.”

next to you to help you answer some of the most common job interview questions.

Answer the questions clearly

As phone interviews tend to be much shorter than face-to-face ones, the interviewers may only plan a handful of questions and therefore must provide clear in-depth answers.

The Balance Careers describes a great response technique on their website called STAR (Situation, Task, Result and Action). Start your answer by describing the context of the situation when you performed well, or you were met with a challenge. Secondly, describe your responsibility then how you completed the task, and finally, explain the results or outcome that occurred after your actions are taken.

Practising how you’re going to answer is also recommended by Kamila from London New Girl, who says: “Ask your recruiter to send you an interview preparation pack with some sample questions. Then practice answering questions out loud, or better yet, ask a friend to interview you. No matter how many times you repeat something in your head, it always sounds different when you say it out loud.”

Work on your communication skills

Two women working at a desk

A common mistake people make during a phone interview is that they speak too quickly. Remember to take a couple of seconds before you answer your question to gather your thoughts and understand what point it is you want to make. Speak clearly and positively, as it will let the interviewer aware of your enthusiasm.

Kamila from London New Girl continues: “It can be a little harder to make a big first impression over the phone, so you need to use your voice and general energy to really get across your confidence, personality and enthusiasm for the job.”

“The last thing you want is a croaky voice during a job interview so if your call is early in the morning or you're just feeling a little tired, do some voice exercises beforehand. Belt out your favourite song or just try some classic musical notes. Sounding fresh and vibrant will do wonders for getting a great, positive energy across the phone line.”

Corina adds: “Don’t rush into answering any question just to avoid awkward silences. Request for a few seconds to think about your answers. If needed, practice a few interview questions with a friend and use a voice recorder. This will help you to better understand how your answers come across, and you can improve your phone skills.

Know who you’re talking to

Man writing

You should make a note of the interviewer’s name to have in front of you just in case you forget when answering the phone. It may also be worth researching the interviewer on LinkedIn, to learn a bit about their background.

Holly from The Work at Home Woman summarises some of the top tips you should follow: “Make sure that you have the correct call-in number, name of the individual(s), and that all of your systems are working correctly. So, charge your smartphone, have your notebook and pen ready with your questions, and actively listen. By being fully engaged in the conversation, you're much more likely to come off as a passionate and professional!”

By following these tips, you can feel confident when applying for legal jobs that you have mastered the phone interview! For quick reference, we’ve made you a checklist below.

Top tips for succeeding at a phone interview

  • Research and learn about the company
  • Prevent any distractions
  • Dress as if you are interviewing face-to-face
  • Have everything you need close by including your CV, cover letter and notes
  • Think about your body language
  • Answer your questions clearly
  • Practice your communication skills
  • Know who you’re talking to