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How to prepare for a phone interview – 2023 update

Check out our article about how to prepare for a phone interview.

Updated in 2023

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

We have helped over 1,000 people land great jobs, including countless phone screen and interview preparations. So, we wanted to share some of our top tips on how to prepare for a phone interview 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. The reasoning? You want to connect your experience and goals to the company’s values. This helps them 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. And, of course, it is beneficial for you to be a user of the product. We actually recommend that you download the app or sign up before interviewing. But, you should also make sure you read about each product on their website to get a better understanding of the history and goals. You need 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 because there are some questions you know you will be asked. Therefore, you should prepare your responses as best you can before the interview. However, 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.

How to prepare for common questions

“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. Start with your education, move through your experience and projects, and end 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 want to work there. 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 their technology, or you are a big fan of their product. Whatever it is, let them know.

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. You should also review our list of behavioral interview questions from top tech companies to practice.

Don’t get tripped up by salary questions

Some recruiters also ask about salary during the phone screen. We do not recommend ever giving a number or even a range. Why? 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.” 

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 and that 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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Alex MacPherson

Hi I'm Alex! Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2019, I have worked on the growth team for Pathrise helping job seekers hone their skills to land their dream role through curated content on interview prep, resume building and more.

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