16 Tips for Owning a Phone Interview

Wow your future employer through the phone!Wow your future employer through the phone!Hold the phone: You nabbed a job interview, but instead of meeting in person, you've been asked to chat up your potential employer via phone. These days, more hiring managers are vetting job candidates by phone prior to arranging IRL meetings. Since handling a phone interview requires a specific skill set, we got Paul Bailo, author of The Essential Phone Interview Handbook, to talk essential phone interview tips.

By Molly Triffin

1. Turn on the Radio
In a phone interview, your voice will make your big first impression, so get a head start on prepping your pipes a week pre-interview by tuning into talk radio. Whether it's Cosmo on Sirius XM, NPR, or the Red Sox game, notice the words and tone the hosts use to create a mental picture for listeners.

2. Dress the Part
Even though you're probably doing the interview in your living room, ditch the rumpled Ramones tee shirt and messy hair and dress as though you were meeting the manager in person. Bailo's research found that people's voices change when wearing business clothing as opposed to casual stuff-your tone, inflection, and word choice automatically become more professional if you look spiffy.

3. Put Yourself in the Hot Seat
It's also smart to recreate an office environment. Sit rather than standing or walking around, and don't look at yourself in the mirror during the interview. Find a picture of the manager (from their LinkedIn profile, etc.) and blow it up on your computer screen so it'll feel like you're face-to-face instead of speaking into a black hole.

4. Nix Interruptions
Background noise is interview kryptonite-so have someone watch your dog, close the windows to block out street sounds, turn off the TV, and don't drink water.

Related: How to Find a Job You Absolutely Love

5. Flash Back to the '90s
Use a landline. We know, we know-but having a crystal clear voice and eliminating the chance of a dropped call is so worth it. Do the interview at your parent's house, or sign up for an old-school phone (even if you only subscribe for a month).

6. Have Them at Hello
Say hello when you answer, instead of a casual greeting like hi or hey, how's it going? It sounds much more professional.

7. Polish Your Language
On that note, avoid filler words like yup, ummm, like, or you know.

8. Be the Perfect Fit
According to Bailo's research, the top reason why hiring manages reject a phone interview candidate is that they "can't see the person in the job." Since it's even tougher to show you're in sync over the phone, you need to demonstrate that you understand the company's culture and can integrate yourself into it. Read up about them in the news, scour their website, and write down questions to ask during the interview.

Related: The 14 Best Jobs for Women

9. Use a Cheat Sheet
One awesome thing about a phone interview is that it's like an open-book test-you can have your notes right there in front of you, which gives you an extra confidence boost. Print out your resume, the job description, and a list of thoughtful questions to ask.

10. Nail the First Five Seconds
Whether in person or on the phone, the manager's initial impression of you is the most important part of the interview. The key to rocking it? Find common ground that'll make her feel connected to you. Instead of getting right down to business, start on a personal note, like, "I noticed you have a 202 number-I went to school in DC." It makes you seem more human, not just a voice at the other end of the line.

11. Act Like a Girl Scout
You'll think this is random, but hear us out: Bringing a sick friend chicken soup or walking shelter dogs gives you an edge. Bailo found that managers pursue candidates who "sound like a nice person." When his team of psychologists investigated what makes someone "sound nice," they discovered it was, well, being nice-those individuals by and large tended to volunteer or go out of their way to give others a hand. That do-gooder attitude is reflected in your voice and makes you likeable.

12. Play Hard to Get
Just like in the early stages of dating, being a little unavailable pays off. When setting up the interview, never accept the first date that HR suggests. A reply like, "I'm free any time this week," makes them wonder what you're doing all day. Also, don't answer the phone on the first ring or you'll send the message that you're desperate. The goal is to make them feel as though they need you more than you need them.

Related: Job Interview Questions You Need to Know

13. Follow the Three-Second Rule
After the interviewer asks you a question, pause for three seconds before replying. It shows that you're thinking rather than rushing to fill the silence, plus avoids the awkward possibility of you accidentally speaking over her.

14. Talk About Your Feelings
During an in-person meeting, your passion for the position comes through in your body language and facial expressions. Over the phone, you need to go the extra step to prove your enthusiasm. When appropriate, weave in phrases like, "I'm so excited about the possibility of working for Teach for America. Teaching is in my DNA."

15. Finish Strong
The second most part of the interview is the end. When the conversation is drawing to a close, say, "I'd like to thank you for your time and consideration." Then, ask what the next steps are. (If she hesitates, you're probably not going to get a face-to-face meeting.) Finally, tell her, "I'm highly interested in this position, and here's why I think I'd be a great fit." Managers remember the beginning and end of an interview best, but the middle gets lost in the ether-so it's a good idea to reiterate your top three strengths.

16. Stay on Her Radar
A day or two later, send the manager an email expressing gratitude and why you'd be a great candidate, focusing on how you'd increase revenue. After another 24 to 48 hours, mail her a short hand-written thank-you card. Since she may be interviewing lots of people over a lengthy period of time, you want to remain front-and-center.

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