Preparing for a Phone Interview

by Marlena Barber, Head Editor, INALJ Tennessee

Preparing for a Phone Interview

editorCongratulations!  You have been contacted for a phone interview with a potential future employer.  I would like to share with you how I prepare for phone interviews.

A phone interview is a wonderful opportunity for you to present yourself well to a potential employer.  When I have a phone interview, I want to prepare as much as possible.  This helps to prevent me from getting caught off guard and to avoid too many pauses in the conversation.

My main recommendation is to try to take a deep breath before the conversation begins.   Many of us are a bundle of nerves when it comes to interviews.   A large benefit of the phone interview is that you can have many materials at hand to help you just in case you get tongue-tied or your brain freezes from nerves.  Remember that the interviewer liked your resume enough to grant you this interview.  Knowing this will help you start the conversation with confidence.

I would like to share with you the many items I like to surround myself with while on the telephone.   I sit at my computer desk, so that I have lots of room.  I clear off all unnecessary items, so I can be ready to go.

I like to have the following items on my desk during the interview:

  • A lit scented candle, for relaxation
  • A cup of water
  • A notebook to write down what the interviewer is saying to me (the sound of typing your notes on the computer can be very distracting to your interviewer)
  • At least two ink pens, in case one runs out of ink

I like to attach the following to my corkboard above my desk before the interview:

  • Compliments on my work from former colleagues and supervisors (I have printed out my LinkedIn recommendations and comments from emails from supervisors complimenting my work)
  • Several sticky notes describing my experiences with soft skills.  For example, I have a note titled Organizer.  On that note, I describe instances where I have proven myself to be a solid organizer on the job.
  • A printed sheet of paper describing my favorite aspects about the employer that I noted from their website and my other reasons for wanting the position

At hand, I have printed out beside me:

  • A copy of my Statement of Philosophy from my ePortfolio
  • A list of questions that I want to ask the interviewer about the library and the position
  • My resume and cover letter
  • The original job posting to refer to during the call, if needed.

I have found that these materials help me greatly during phone interviews, particularly the printed compliments as those build confidence.  Those compliments can also help if the interviewer asks a question regarding what others would say about you.  I also believe that those written notes describing aspects of me and my work help when you need to speak about examples about your work  (as in the Organizer note and others, like another note that I have titled Time Management).

Phone interviews are a perfect initial opportunity for you to explain who you are, your work ethic, and your work experiences that relate to the position.  Because you can have materials to refer to at hand, you can feel more confident in your answers and not struggle so much with your words due to nerves.  Many of us will have interview jitters whether we do or do not have supplementary materials, so this phone interview is a perfect way to be prepared and have time to learn more about the library instead of spending precious interview time trying to formulate examples on the fly.  You may not even need to glance at your materials after having prepared them.  Much like the experience of “writing off” when in trouble in elementary school, writing down ideas you have about yourself and the position on paper will help ingrain those ideas into your brain.  Finally, an initial conversation by phone will enable you to feel more confident to speak more about yourself and to dive deeper into what the position entails when you are granted a second, in-person interview.

I hope that sharing my own system will help another current or future librarian feel more comfortable, confident, and prepared for when they are granted a phone interview with a library.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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