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How to prepare for a phone interview

The phone interview, or phone screen, is often the first step in the interview process. Usually, this is a fairly brief behavioral session with the recruiter or HR. But, just because it is a little more casual and the interviewer can’t see you, it doesn’t mean that you can skimp on the preparation.

We have worked with hundreds of people through their phone screens and the rest of their interviews so that they can land great jobs and we wanted to share some of our top tips to prepare for these phone interviews so you can go in with confidence.

1. Research the company

Just like any other interview, you need to do research before your phone screen so that you have a good understanding of the company’s mission, values, and products. 

Knowledge of the company mission will help you when you talk about yourself, in your elevator pitch (introduction) and throughout the behavioral questions. You want to connect your experience and goals to the company’s values so they know you are a good culture fit. Check out the company’s About page, Culture page, and Jobs/Careers page for information on what they look for in a good candidate and team member.

You should also make sure you have a good sense of the products that the company works on. A lot of people skip this step when they are interviewing with big tech companies because they already use the products. While it is beneficial for you to be a user of the product, so much so that you should consider downloading the app or signing up before interviewing, you should also make sure you read about each product on their website to get a better understanding of the history and goals. You should be able to speak intelligently about how you can drive impact, especially if you are applying for a specific product team, like Oculus at Facebook.

For more information on how to research a company to prepare for interviews, check out our guide.

2. Prepare responses to common questions

Don’t let yourself be taken by surprise. There are some questions you know you will be asked, so you should prepare your responses as best you can before the interview. You don’t want to come across as rehearsed, but you do get the added advantage of being out of sight, so you can use notes to help you while you respond on the phone.

“Tell me about yourself” or some similar introduction question is definitely going to come up, so make sure you have your elevator pitch ready. This should be a 1-2 minute high-level recap of who you are, starting with your education, moving through your experience and projects, and ending with a conclusion of yourself as you fit with the company’s mission and goals. For a helpful elevator pitch template, check out our guide.

You will likely also be asked how you find out about the role or the company. In this case, just tell them where you found the position, that you are excited about the opportunity, and why. You don’t need to overdo it, but you should be ready to tell them what excites you about their company. Maybe you are passionate about their mission, you love the technology they use, or you’re a big fan of their product – whatever it is, let them know.

Some recruiters also ask about salary on this phone screen. We do not recommend ever giving a number or even a range because it can come back to bite you later in the process when you get to the offer stage. Negotiating a higher salary can compound to add hundreds of thousands of dollars to your salaries later in your career, so it is important to be smart. If they ask you about salary requirements on the phone interview, be polite but let them know you haven’t thought about it yet. You can also say, ““I’m not sure yet, I’ll need to do some research on industry standards first.” 

You should also expect to answer questions like, “what is your greatest weakness?” as well talk about a time where you experienced a conflict. Check out more phone interview questions and answers so you can prepare as effectively as possible.

3. Plan where you will take the call (and make sure it’s quiet)

People often forget to plan where they will actually take their phone interviews, which leads to stress and scrambling right before the call. You want to make sure you are somewhere quiet, where you have good reception. It is often helpful to have a computer or notebook handy too so that you can take notes.

Places that are not great for phone interviews:

  • Coffee shops (too loud)
  • Outside (too loud and reception might not great)
  • Your office (you don’t want to be worried that someone will walk in or hear you interviewing)

Places that are good for phone interviews:

  • Your apartment (as long as it is quiet)
  • A study room in the library (as long as you can talk at a normal volume)
  • A phone booth at a coworking space

With the above tips, you should be able to prepare for your phone interviews so that you go in with confidence and ensure that you will move onto the next round. 

Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With our tips & guidance, job-seekers in our program increased their phone interview success rate to 75%.

If you want to work with a mentor 1-on-1 to get help with your interviews or any other aspect of the job search, join Pathrise. 

Apply today.

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