How to Sound Your Best in a Phone Interview

Phone interview

Hold it right there. Don’t snap a selfie or drop a clever hashtag.

While it’s true millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, this is no time to celebrate.


Sorry, couldn’t help myself. After all, our generation loves to write in phrases, abbreviations and clever shorthand. The style works great for Gchat and Instagram, but in the job market formality still rules the day.

I recently spoke with Rachel Brown, who runs the Center for Career Services at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Brown said employers often feel recent grads have inadequate communication skills. That goes for writing and speaking.

“Employers tell me the writing is too casual and that young adults also struggle during Skype and phone interviews,” Brown said. “That’s why we stage mock interviews to prepare our students for the real thing.”

If you follow my blog, you know I am big on simple ways to improve our writing. Articles like:

– 3 Adjectives That Weaken Your Job Application

But what about phone interviews? How can we sound our best when we’re on the spot?

When I was a TV reporter, I learned a simple trick as I recorded my voice for news stories: stand up.

If you’re seated (and maybe slumped over), you can limit the strength of your voice. By standing up, you breathe better and speak more confidently. It can even help to pace the room (be on your toes, literally and figuratively) rather than remain flat footed in one place.

OK, so you made your voice stronger. Now what about the words themselves? What should you say?

I received solid intel from James Stanger, senior director of product development at CompTIA, the leading trade association for the IT industry.

Stanger said the best interview tactic is to “ask penetrating questions about the company.”

“It’s all about turning the tables to show you’re genuinely interested in being part of our team,” said Stanger. More: 4 Questions Every Millennial Should Ask in a Job Interview (Stanger would like #2)

FYI…Stanger told me the IT industry needs to hire young adults to replace an aging workforce. Check out the different career paths you can take in IT and bear in mind one important point:

“Few professions allow you to be as creative as IT,” said Stanger. “We work with security, social media, virtualization, cloud-based software, marketing, sales and more. It’s an exciting field and a unique way to generate wealth for a company.”

As you prep for the next phone interview, spend time on the company’s website and “get” what they’re all about. Read the mission statement, learn about recent projects and look over company bios to understand the office vibe/ culture.

Why the heavy-duty research? Brown said employers want to know you have the technical skills and soft skills (ex: coachable, team player) and that you’re the right fit (ex: personality, values) for the team. “Everything rolls up to those three things,” she said.

If you can prove all three on the phone (and remember to stand up straight), one thing’s for sure.

The employer will hear you loud and clear.

What’s your phone interview strategy?

Danny Rubin is a communications expert who specializes in writing and networking skills. He also writes the blog News To Live By, which highlights the career advice “hidden” in the headlines. Follow him @DannyHRubin. Danny is this year’s Plank Center “Milestones in Mentoring” young professional honoree. Culpwrit looks forward to sharing more of Danny’s great advice throughout the year.

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