If you’re on the internship hunt and you’ve passed the nerve-racking waiting period after submitting your resume and cover letter, congratulations. You’ve now entered the nerve-racking phone interview portion of the process—yay! Sometimes companies will have you go to their office for an in-person interview, but everyone has their own process, and some may be lengthier than others. Anyway, the point is, the hiring manager clearly saw something in your initial application material that made him or her think you’re a good candidate to add to the ‘yes’ pile, and now you have to impress them even more on the phone.
I feel like a lot of college students and millennials get really nervous when they’re in a situation where they have to speak to a higher up over the phone. As a Journalism major, I’m always talking to doctors, business owners, lawyers and professors on the phone for articles for class. So I personally don’t mind phone interviews as much as most other people do. The stakes are already high since you’re competing with dozens of other extremely qualified candidates for just a couple of intern roles. Adding the dread of a phone conversation on top of that makes it even worse. And not to stress you out even more, but that’s just one part of it.
The phone interview is your chance to really ‘wow’ your interviewer and prove that you have the skills they’re looking for. Thinking on the spot can be so daunting, but fortunately, there are some things you can do to calm your nerves and have a pretty good phone interview.
1. Find a quiet place.
You may think that your interviewer might not hear your roommate blasting music through her headphones, but trust me, they probably will. And they’ll probably think you’re inconsiderate or don’t take the position seriously since you couldn’t even find the decency to get yourself a quiet spot. Even though Starbucks is my favorite place for working and studying, I absolutely would not try to make a phone call there because it’s so loud. I usually go back to my dorm where I know I won’t be bothered.
2. Do your research on the company before the interview.
You probably did some research on the company already when you wrote your cover letter (p.s., never make these cover letter mistakes!) but this is where you’re going to need to do even more research to show you pay attention. If you’re interviewing for an editorial or production position, look for 2-3 articles or videos on the site that you can talk about during the interview. If you’re interviewing for a business or research position, dig around for any recent projects the company might’ve taken on so you could speak about that if asked.
Related: How To Land A Summer Internship
3. Prepare at least two really good questions for the end of the interview.
It can sometimes be difficult to think of something really good to ask after an interview, especially since a lot of times the interviewer will pretty much give you almost every detail about the position and what the company does. But read me carefully: the hiring manager will take it as a red flag if you don’t ask any questions after your interview. Even if you’ve been following this company since you could spell the word ‘company,’ you can’t possibly know every thing there is to know about it. I sometimes try to ask the interviewer a more personal question like “what was your favorite project to tackle?” They’re sometimes surprised by that but it’s a good way to change things up a bit and get their personal take on something.
4. Avoid talking over your interviewer.
Okay, while I don’t mind phone interviews at all, this is where I think in-person interviews are SO much better. But that’s a topic for another time. It’s kind of hard to avoid doing this sometimes because when you’re sitting in front of someone you can read their body language and usually be able to tell when they’re about to say something, but this isn’t possible over the phone. If you do happen to talk over the person interviewing you, simply say something like “I’m sorry, I cut you off. Please continue.”
5. Take your time to articulate your answers.
Don’t feel like you have to fire off answers instantaneously. If you need to think through a good response, give yourself a couple of seconds. I usually say something like, “that’s a really interesting question,” so they don’t think they got cut off or I’m not listening or something. And it buys me a bit of time to think about how I want to phrase things.
6. Avoid repeating the same stuff over and over.
Okay, I did this a couple of years ago during one of my first phone interviews and I seriously kicked myself for it because it was an interview for a position at one of my DREAM companies, and needless to say, I didn’t get the position. Don’t make the interviewer think that there’s seriously nothing more to you other than the fact that you’re good at managing your time and you love being a team player. Dig deep and really think about the experiences you’ve had.
7. Take every interview seriously, even if the company isn’t your first choice.
There is no internship position that’s “too small,” “too insignificant,” or “not really much.” Every experience is valuable. So even if your interview is with that one company you applied to for the sake of applying, interview like you’re interviewing at your dream company because this phone call could be the difference between you making $10 per hour at a fun company and not getting anything at all.
8. Send a thank you email after your interview is complete.
I think there’s nothing wrong with showing your appreciation for the opportunity to interview. And, I recently read an article that said that some hiring managers actually like receiving a thank you note through email. Try to send yours within 24 hours after your interview. The article I linked has some helpful points about what to include, so be sure to take a look at it.
What were your best and worst phone interviews like?