How To Nail the Phone Interview

Daily inspiration and advice for the ambitious savvy young professional

How To Nail the Phone Interview

Traveling for an internship has become extremely popular. With summer internships around the corner, I thought, what better than an article on How To NAIL the Phone Interview. Most students that plan to intern at companies that are located in another city will first participate in a phone interview. The phone interview will decide if the candidate should be brought in the office for an in-person interview. In many cases, the phone interview can get you the internship. Personally, I conduct phone interviews with students that intern with me. About 50 percent of the companies I work with also conduct phone interviews that determine if the student gets the internship. This saves time and effort for both the student and the employer.

Phone-Interview Tips

  • Speak Clearly. Wake up at least one hour before your phone interview so you don’t sound groggly on the telephone. Your speech should be clear and properly paced. Communication is so important and an employer will know after the first minute of your conversation if they want to further communicate with you. Make sure you are speaking at an appropriate pace, not too quickly and not too slowly. Pronounce all of your words properly to avoid hearing,”What ? What did you say?” from the employer. Many internships require interns to communicate with clients or other organizations via telephone. The employer needs to be confident that you are alright on the phone.


  • Be Confident. I can always tell when a student is confident about themselves. If you have achieved great things tell the employer about them. You don’t need to carry on and on but explain your accomplishments clearly. Confidence is contagious. If you sound confident than you are likely to make the employer feel the same way about you.

  • Passion. Don’t be afraid to show your excitement for the internship/job. Even if you don’t have tons of experience in this field your passion will shine. Explain to the employer why you want this opportunity. Express that you don’t mind doing the smaller tasks and will give 100 percent at all times.

  • Be Prepared. Take a look at the practice questions I have listed on my blog and go over them. is also a great resource for practice interview questions.  A few common phone interview questions are listed below.

  • Tell me about yourself. This is a very open-ended question. Keep your answer tight and try not to go off on small tangents. Keep your goals clear. A sample answer would be: “I’ve always been very interested in the public relations world. I’m from Clearwater, Florida and graduated school in Orlando at the University of Central Florida. I was a communications major and during college, I decided to become a part-time freelance writer. I was published in several magazines which provided me with the opportunity to meet and network with several editors, publishers, and PR Executives. I was fascinated by the world of publicity and decided I really wanted to be on the other side of things and be the person setting up the interviews. I conducted lots of research and contacted your company because I thought the clients you work with and the types of projects you work on, interest me the most.”

  • Why do you want this job ? Make sure you don’t sound desperate when answering this question. At the same time, make it clear that this is your dream job. Sample Answer: “This internship would be an amazing opportunity for me to observe and learn how a top PR Firm is run. I’m sure I will learn so much by just watching everyone do their day-to-day tasks and helping them do whatever they need. I really want to watch first-hand how you are able to take a client and raise their awareness in the public. I want to be a PR Executive when I graduate so I can’t think of a better place to start.”

  • What is your biggest weakness ? Be careful with this question, as it can get tricky. You don’t want to say anything too bad about yourself here. Don’t stick your foot in your mouth. I used to say things like, “I can be too much of a perfectionist at times which can slow you down, but I’ve learned to pick up the speed and work efficiently.”

  • What are your best qualities ? Before answering this question remember that each quality you mention should be applicable to the professional world. Some great descriptive terms to use are:dependable, loyal, hard working, strong work ethic, cooperative, attentive, punctual, energetic.

  • The Closer. At the end of the call make sure you get to say something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate it and look forward to speaking further.”

  • The Thank-You note. Yes, you do need to treat a phone interview like an in-person interview and write a thank you note. Want to know a secret tip ? Write the Thank You before you do the interview or at least write the majority of it. This note needs to be mailed THE DAY of your interview so that it reaches the employer asap.

More Phone Interview Advice (From My Friend’s on Twitter!)

“Do your best to avoid any “ums,” “ahs,” & other filler words.” @Jennipps, Freelance Writer and Editor,

“Don’t chew gum, don’t interrupt, don’t say um, ah, err to fill empty spaces. Listening is just as important as talking. Manners.” @JuliaRosien, Julia Rosien,

“Do the interview in a quiet place. Your enthusiasm will show through.” @rachelesterline, Student, PRSSA.

“Phone interview tips: Got to showcase your enthusiasm fpr the job verbally, don’t be afraid to take the lead but be a good listener.” @MattWilsonTV, Matt Wilson, Young Entrepreneur,

“Be on time. Prepare for the obvious questions. Use stories, adapt them for the curve balls.” @JonathanGoodman, Jonathan Goodman, Sales and Marketing,

“KNOW the company inside and out. Become a real fan. Also, share your energy. Employers love good energy in applicants.” @thebrandbuilder, Olivier Blanchard, Brand Strategist,

“Know your stuff. Be concise. Think about the most obvious questions you will be asked, and have a strong and confident response.” @RobMcNealy, Rob McNealy, Entrepreneur and Business Coach,

“Have a few basic questions prepared such as ‘tell me about yourself’ and ‘why did you pick __’ ” @ExecutiveVision, Nicole Crimaldi, Social Media Expert and Blogger,

“Enthusiasm and tone of voice are key. An online portfolio of work to reference during the interview helps too.” @Evanspatrick, Patricfk Evans, Public Realtions Executive,

“Show enthusiasm by asking a lot of questions (esp. about the interviewer), give succinct but thorough answers to questions (don’t ramble)”. @Alicia_Wells, Alicia Wells, Public Relations Exec and Internship Coordinator at Peppercom.

 ”Always land line, not cell; do your homework/research first; always ask if follow-up is OK in case you forget something.” @jamiefloer, Jamie Floer, Public Relations Executive.

Other Helpful Links

Heather Huhman’s Column for the

Monster’s, Peter Vogt, on the Phone Interview:

Maureen Crawford Hentz on the Phone Interview: on Practice Interview Questions: