Resume Help/Phone Interview


Hi Ralph,

I have just been contacted by one of the employers that I sent an application to.  We set up a phone interview for next week.  Is there any difference in the way I should handle a phone interview and an in-person interview?  I haven't done one of these before, so any tips you can provide would be appreciated.  Thanks.

Hi Juan,

Yes, there are some subtle differences in the phone vs. conventional interview.  Many things remain the same (such as how you should prepare for the interview, the way that you respond to the questions, and other things) but you need to consider the things that are different.

The most important differences are (1) unless this is a Skype interview or something similar, they can't see you and you can't see them; (2) you can use a lot of notes or prompts to help you respond to questions (since they won't know if you use notes or not); (3) body language is not a factor since, again, there is no visual contact on either side; (4) unless you are told, you have no way of knowing how many people are listening to your responses - assuming the employer is on speaker phone.

Obviously, some of these differences work to your advantage and some don't.  Usually the reason that a phone interview is used is because it is cheaper and simpler for all concerned.  You don't have to go to the expense of traveling to the employer (or they don't have the expense of paying to get you there).  Typically this scenario takes place at first-level interviews and is used to eliminate some candidates.  For example, if an employer chooses, they could phone interview 10 or 15 people at the first level and eliminate all but 4 or 5 who they would grant second-level interviews.  I have never encountered a situation where the choice was made to offer a candidate a position based on a phone interview.

There is a hybrid of this interview type (which, I assume, does not apply in your case) and that is what we generally call a "remote interview."  It is done long distance with a combined audio/video connection so both parties can see each other.  Skype is the simplest way to conduct this kind of interview, but there are other distance formats that can be used as well.

If yours is a straight phone type, one thing you don't have to worry about is getting spiffed up!  Do the interview in your pajamas or shorts and flip-flops if you want!  The downside is that, if you like to "talk" with your hands, and consider body language a big part of your communication style, you will be at a disadvantage.  Your voice inflection, clarity of diction, and choice of words will be the only tools you have.  So, when you practice your question responses, do so with a colleague or friend who can give you honest feedback on those things.  If you tend to talk too fast (and many of us do when we are under the stress of things like job interviews), have  your friend tell you to slow down.  Speak clearly, enunciate your words, and smile.  I know this last sounds curious since they can't see you, but - trust me on this - when you smile just as you would in a face-to-face interview, it effects the tone of your voice in a positive way and helps keep you engaged in the process.

Compile some note cards or some system that will help you to remember the points you want to make in response to questions.  Your talking points (as they should be in every type of interview) should focus on your skills and qualifications AS THEY RELATE to the employer's needs for this specific position.  This is a definite advantage of the phone interview and one that is not afforded to you in any other type of situation.

Try to be as natural as possible, imagine yourself in the room with the questioners, use your voice to be as persuasive and honest as you can make it.  Some people advise you to use a mirror while you are on the phone to help you remind yourself to smile; do so if you think it can help.

Hope this is of help to you; good luck!

Best wishes,

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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