6 Tips for a Great Phone Interview

Ruth Lincoln, Head Editor, INALJ Washington, DC

6 Tips for a Great Phone Interview

ruth.lincolnPhone interviews are often a first stop on the road to your next library job. They’re a chance for the organization to screen applicants and narrow its choices.

As much as we text and email, it’s easy to forget once-simple tasks like talking on the phone. But with a little preparation, you can speak with confidence, impress the hiring committing, and advance to that coveted in-person interview.

1. Treat it like ANY OTHER INTERVIEW

Sure, you can forget the suits, ties, and nylons for this round. But wardrobe decisions aside, this phone interview isn’t much different from any other interview.

The phone interview is a great opportunity to show the interviewers what it would be like to have you in this position. What would it be like to work with YOU every day?

Do your homework. Research the library/organization. Understand its mission and where you fit in. Think of some examples or stories where you overcame a challenge. Prepare a few questions to ask the interviewers.

And of course, review these other tips.

2. Prepare your space

Find a quiet area and check your phone service. Whether you’re taking on a cell phone, landline, or Skype, you must ensure your voice is heard clearly.

You’re probably familiar with the places in your home that have good service, but what if you’re taking the call elsewhere? Test this out with a friend, especially if you’re taking the call in an unfamiliar place. And if you’re considering using speakerphone, test that feature, too.

Turn off alarms and/or call waiting if you can. You don’t want the beep or buzz rattling your focus.

3. Take notes

Keep a pen/paper or a computer nearby. The interviewers will likely provide more details about the position you’ll want to record.

Jot down questions to ask at the end. Even if you’ve prepared a few, it’s always a good idea to ask follow-up questions and show you were listening actively.


Just because the interviewer can’t see the sweat dripping from your forehead, it doesn’t mean she can’t sense your tone.

Smiling might sound silly, but it really projects enthusiasm when you’re not face-to-face. When you smile, your voice sounds friendlier, and it’s simply more pleasant to hear you speak.

Grinning also slows your speech. That’ll help when you share stories illustrating why you’d be a valuable asset to this employer!

5. Say thanks

After the call, immediately write a note or email thanking those involved for the opportunity to interview. They took valuable time to learn more about you. Take the time to recognize that commitment. They’ll notice and appreciate that you followed up immediately.

6. Relax

Step back and take a deep breath. You’re one step closer to a potential job. Even if it doesn’t lead to an offer, any interview experience is worthwhile.


More Interview Resources

Hiring Librarians: Interview Questions Database – A terrific resource from the folks at Hiring Librarians. Locate Column B “What Kind of Interview Was It”, and filter by “Phone”.

10 Ways to Ace a Phone Interview – Tips from Alison Green, author of Ask a Manager.

Nailing the Library Interview – Library interview tips from Mr. Library Dude.

  2 comments for “6 Tips for a Great Phone Interview

  1. Mary Woolsey
    June 27, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Do you have additional advice for people who are hard of hearing, and dependent on lip reading to do well in a phone interview? I have been job hunting for two years and have gone through a number of phone interviews. Also, I have successfully been asked for face-to-face interviews after the telephone interview. However, one issue that is difficult to navigate around is having to ask the interviewer to repeat the questions several times. How does this actually affect getting the face to face interview? As sometimes, I think that because of this, I am really not asked to proceed to another telephone or face-to-face interview and in further consideration for a position.

    • Ruth
      July 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Mary,

      Good question! Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” so an applicant can be considered for a job vacancy.

      What qualifies as a “reasonable accommodation”? The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests the following: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/jobapplicant.html

      Reasonable accommodation can take many forms. Ones that may be needed during the hiring process include (but are not limited to):

      providing written materials in accessible formats, such as large print, braille, or audiotape
      providing readers or sign language interpreters
      ensuring that recruitment, interviews, tests, and other components of the application process are held in accessible locations
      providing or modifying equipment or devices
      adjusting or modifying application policies and procedures.

      Example: John is blind and applies for a job as a customer service representative. John could perform this job with assistive technology, such as a program that reads information on the screen. If the company wishes to have John demonstrate his ability to use the computer, it must provide appropriate assistive technology as a reasonable accommodation.

      Example: An employer requires job applicants to line up outside its facility to apply for a job, a process that could take several hours. Tara has multiple sclerosis and that makes her unable to tolerate prolonged exposure to temperatures in the 90’s. Tara therefore requests that she be allowed to wait indoors where it is air conditioned until the human resources department is ready to take her application. The employer would need to modify its hiring procedure to accommodate Tara.


      I’m no legal expert, but this might include a Skype interview so you could read the interviewers’ lips as they ask questions. Or, maybe the interviewers could set up an online chat during the interview. They could type each question during the interview.

      EEOC strongly recommends to “let an employer know as soon as you realize that you will need a reasonable accommodation for some aspect of the hiring process.”

      If you have more specific questions, you can contact your local EEOC field office: http://www.eeoc.gov/field/

      Thanks for reading INALJ and good luck in your job search! 🙂

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