5 Tips for a Stellar Phone Interview

It’s the middle of March, and thousands of public relations students across the globe are scouring job boards to secure the coveted summer internship.

Internships are competitive, especially those in big cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. Agencies and companies alike use phone interviews to ‘pre-screen’ candidates through Human Resources.

Phone interviews are a lot different than in-person interviews, so many don’t know how to prepare. Lucky for you, I compiled 5 tips to ace your interview.

1. Do your research

Important for every type of interview, this tip should go without saying. In the week before your interview, find out everything you can about the company. What is their mission and values? Who are their clients? What campaigns or projects are they currently working on? You’ll likely be asked why you want to work for the company and why they should hire you. By familiarizing yourself with the company, you’ll be able to make your responses more relevant.

Equally important to researching the company is researching your interviewer. Do your best to find out this person’s name in advance. Usually this information is included in your invitation to interview. If it’s not, call or email the Human Resources team and find out. Then, look up your interviewer online. A basic Google search provides you with blogs, publications and social media accounts. LinkedIn is a great tool to research background information, like education and previous work experience.

Finally, use your research to prepare questions. Ask about current clients, reference the interviewer’s history with the company, etc. Make a list of five strong questions for your interviewer. You may not use all of them, but you’ll be prepared.

2. Make a cheat sheet

Think of a phone interview like an open-book test–all of the information you need is at your fingertips. Tape your resume and cover letter to the wall (to avoid papers rustling) for easy access during the interview. Make a cheat sheet with background information on the company and the job description to reference throughout your answers.

3. Practice, practice, practice

‘Practice makes perfect’ is a cheesy cliche, but in the case of interviews it’s 100 percent true. Prepare your answers to common phone-screen questions. Then, have a friend or family member call you to mimic the interview experience. Start practicing a week in advance!

4. Find a quiet space and a working phone

When it comes time for the interview, be sure to control your environment. Find a quiet space with no distractions and set up your station–water, cheat sheet, resume/cover letter. If possible, use a landline to avoid shaky cell phone reception. If you must use your cell, make sure it’s fully charged.

5. Dress up and stand up

Even though the interviewer can’t see you, dressing well enhances your performance. Promise. Imagine how you feel lounging on the couch in sweatpants–comfy, sure, but professional? Dressing like you would for a face-to-face interview will naturally add professionalism to your answers. Also, stand up! While sprawling out on your cozy bed is tempting, standing up and walking around enhances the projection and quality of your voice.

Bonus: Follow Up!

The bonus (and most important) tip is what sets you apart from other candidates. In the next 24-48 hours, follow up with your interviewer! I like to send him/her a quick email the same day as the interview and mail a handwritten thank you note the next day. This shows that you genuinely want the internship and value the interviewer’s time. Try to mention something specific that you talked about during the interview and reiterate how much you want the job.

Did I miss anything? If you have additional phone interview advice, please comment with your thoughts!


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