Student Life

Conducting the Successful Phone Interview

A potential employer may want to do a preliminary interview by phone. If you're prepared for the call, you can impress the interviewer.

Here are some tips:

  1. Turn off distractions. Take your phone into in a quiet room.
  2. Have all your tools in one place:
    • Resume
    • Pen and paper to jot the interviewer(s) name(s) down immediately and to take notes during the interview
    • Company research (with relevant information highlighted)
    • Questions to ask about the company and position
    • A loosely written outline of points to make or items to cover as you talk about the position
    • A glass of water
  3. Dress the part for the interview. Experts say if you're dressed in a professional manner, you'll speak that way.
  4. If an employer calls and wants to do the interview right away (instead of setting up an appointment), excuse yourself politely and offer to call back in five minutes. This will give you time to make the psychological switch from whatever you are doing to your professional demeanor.
  5. Stand up to talk. Your position affects the quality of your voice. If you are sitting down or relaxing, you don't project the same readiness and intensity as when you stand up.
  6. Talk only when necessary. Since you lack the visual cues of body language to assess whether you've said enough, mark the end of your response with a question, such as "Would you like more details of my experience as an intern with XYZ Company?"
  7. Let the employer end the interview. Then you should say "Thank you for your time," and reiterate your interest in the position.
  8. Write a thank-you note to anyone who participated in the phone interview.

Interviewing: Basic Advice

Here are some brief tips to help prepare you for an interview. These tips are not designed to replace interacting with a CDC staff member. If you would like further interviewing skills assistance, please contact our office (298-1838) to schedule an appointment or schedule a mock interview. Please bring a hard copy of your resume and possibly a job description.

In an interview, you will be asked a variety of questions. Some interviews last 10 minutes and others might last all day. No matter the length or what they ask, the are trying to determine the following:

"Why do you want to work here"?
The company wants to know why you are interested in working for them. To answer this question, you must do research on the company to understand their mission, services, goals, and future outlook.
"What are you going to do for us"?
The company is hoping to get an idea of what makes you unique and why they should hire you.  Do you have the appropriate skills and abilities to complete the daily tasks? Can you prove it?
"Do you fit-in with us"?
This is not a direct question, but rather what they are assessing. You may have all the right answers to the interviewers' questions, but if they feel that you don't fit-in with existing team members, they won't let you into the organization.

Before The Interview

Research: Learn all you can about the company or organization by going to their Internet home page. Research current articles written about the company. Check out their social media pages and employees on Linked In.

Mental Preparation: Prepare potential interview questions that you may be asked and develop "stories" that will provide the interviewer with "proof" of your skills and competencies. This will help you to feel comfortable during the interview because you will know exactly what you are talking about. Ask yourself, "why would I hire me?"

Physical Preparation: The night before, plan your wardrobe and your travel route. Get plenty of sleep, drink more water, and exercise to help relax your nerves.

Getting Dressed:

First impressions are very important, so if you are not sure what to wear, call and ask what is appropriate. A conservative suit, (pant suits are probably acceptable for women in most cases, except in very old conservative organizations). Either way, it is best to error on the side of conservatism.

Avoid: Loud colors, too much perfume or aftershave, too much make-up, too much jewelry, cowboy boots, spike heels, flats, flip-flops, athletic shoes, and hiking boots.

Wear: light colored shirt (men) or blouse (women), dark socks (men), neutral hosiery (women), conservative tie (men), and comfortable polished professional shoes (men and women).

Do: Shower, shave, wash your hair, deodorize, brush your teeth, and use mouthwash. Try to cover up the tattoo's and if possible the body piercing.

Carry: A professional looking folder/portfolio with a pen and a pad of paper. DO NOT CARRY a large tote bag or back pack.

Some Basic Rules:

  1. Arrive about 10 minutes early. Politely introduce yourself to the receptionist, why you are there, and whom you are there to see.
  2. When first meeting the interviewer, extend your hand offer a firm (not vise-like) grip, make good eye contact, and express your appreciation for the interview.
  3. Always address the interviewer as Ms., Mr., or Dr. Wait until being offered a chair and do not place any of your personal items on their desk.

The Interview:

  1. Relax. Listen to the questions and begin to formulate your thoughts in the form of a "story" where you can provide PROOF BY EXAMPLE TO EVERYTHING YOU SAY.
  2. Your answers should be able to convey RESULTS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS orally the way your resume does on paper. Speak in a confident positive manner without being arrogant, and be aware of poor grammar and slang.
  3. During the interview ask questions, maintain good eye contact, and body posture.

Being "Tested" During the Interview:

Being Confronted: Some interviewers may confront applicants to see how they react to pressure and respond to stressful situations on the job. They want to see what "pushes your buttons" and how easily they get pushed. Don't panic, just be cool and be yourself!

Over Used Questions: Interviewers may start with trite questions like "tell me about yourself". This is just a lead-off question to see if you really are the right person for the job. What the interviewer wants to know is your strengths, qualifications, experience, and education and how they match with position that you are interviewing for. What the interviewer does not want to know is your life story, your family background, marital status, hobbies or interests.

Illegal Questions: Interviewers may "sneak-in" an illegal question. Whether this is done intentionally or unintentionally, how you respond to the question is what is most important. Becoming defensive or "threatening legal action" will not help your cause.

  1. Give the interviewer the benefit of the doubt and answer it. Some interviewers are just curious, unaware of the legality of the question, or have been poorly trained. When you are having "small-talk" with an employer, these questions might come up, and they are not intending to discriminate against you. It is up to you if you want to share these aspects of your life.
  2. Politely ask the interviewer, "How does that relate to this job and the job requirements?" You just might surprise and impress the interviewer and show them that you can handle yourself like a professional.
  3. Answer the question by showing you know their intent. Employer: Are you married? You: If you are asking whether I can do the job effectively and work late hours, than the answer is "yes."
  4. Report the organization to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If you feel strongly that you were being discriminated against in an interview, visit the following website for information on how to file a report.  How to File a Complaint.

Question Links

Questions that you may want to ask an employer during the interview:

  1. What type of training programs are set-up for new employees?
  2. Could you please describe the typical first year projects or assignments?
  3. What do you see as the greatest challenge in this position?
  4. What kind of person are you looking for?
  5. What is the work environment like?
  6. What are the opportunities (or paths) for advancement?
  7. What are the organizations policies on promoting from within?
  8. How and when are evaluations conducted?
  9. What is the overall structure of the department?
  10. Where do you see the organization / department heading for in the future?

Contact Info

Career Development Center
Memorial Hall 125
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455

Email: careers@wiu.edu
Phone: (309) 298-1838