The Art of the Phone Interview

Phone conversations are an important first step in business. You rarely get the job or the project based on a phone call but you sure can lose them because of one. We’ve done a lot of phone interviews with women — research study participants, panel members and potential employees — and wanted to share our ideas on what works.


Think through how your skills and experience connect to this specific opportunity and speak to that. It sounds simple but you should have one or two concrete reasons in your mind why you’re uniquely right.

Sometimes women tend to:

Focus on explaining their strengths without making the connection to this job or this opportunity.  The women who break through are genuinely enthusiastic about the fit between the two and make sure to make that point.


Plan how you want to review your past experience. One woman we talked to handled this nicely – she started with a high-level overall summary, briefly explaining what she learned at different milestones, then concluded by connecting how her current work related to our job opening. She was concise, direct and engaging.

Mistakes we’ve seen women make:

Going back and recounting four or six or nine past jobs in great detail or giving examples that don’t have much to do with the topic at hand . Some people are watchmakers (process-focused) and some are timetellers (outcome-focused). Know your style and where you might get off track.


Share something real or funny or give an example that reveals something positive about you that might be hard to say directly.  If you can tell a good story, all the better.

Sometimes women can:

Open up about their personal life, go into too much detail or get distracted and make unrelated points. It’s easy to relax once you’re in a conversation and overshare.

And finally, do:

Remember that the phone interview is just a doorway – the goal is to be invited in for the next step.

Do you have any tips or stories about own phone interviews? Please share.


One response to “The Art of the Phone Interview

  1. I always start phone interviews with my resume, the job description, and a list of points I’d like to highlight and relevant questions I plan to ask right in front of me, topped by a note saying, “Stop talking.” It’s good for me to have a reminder to keep my answers tight because I think it’s easy to be tempted to go on and on when you don’t have body language cues telling you that the interviewer understands and accepts your answer.

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