Phone Interview Tips Series

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What happens if you talk too much in a phone interview?  Or related to that, you offer up Too Much Information?  Both show poor communication skills that could keep you from getting the invitation to the face-to-face.  It’s important that you know how much to talk and what to say to have a successful telephone interview.

Knowing how much to talk can feel a little bit tricky…but it really depends on your interviewer.

If they’re talking a lot, then it’s OK to listen and see what you can learn.  (But don’t forget to ask for the next step!)  If they spend most of their time asking questions, then you talk.  In general, as long as it feels like a back-and-forth conversation, rather than a monologue, then you’re probably good.

Just don’t spend too much time answering those questions.  A minute or two per question should be plenty.  Practice your answers ahead of time to make sure they are succinct, focused, and not too long.  And calm those nerves before you interview.  Nerves can make you ramble on and talk way too much.  Not understanding the question can make you say too much, too—you’re not sure what the right answer is, so you give all the right answers you can think of at once.  That is a mistake.  If you don’t understand what they want to know, ask.

While you’re watching how much you talk, also watch what you say.  Don’t offer up too much information that could hurt you.  Here are a few ways to avoid that:

Always keep your answers job-focused.

Many job seekers offer up personal information out of nervousness, an attempt to bond with the interviewer, or because they don’t understand how to answer interview questions.  For instance, when they hear “Tell me a little about yourself,” many job seekers say things like, “I’m from Minnesota,” “I have two kids,” “I’m a Facebook junkie.”  Don’t say those things.  Your answer should always be, “I have a degree in X,” “I have experience in Y,” or something that relates to the job.

Don’t be negative.

Negativity of all kinds would count under “too much information.”  Don’t talk any kind of trash about your last job or boss.  Don’t talk about any personal problems (that’s a doubl

Avoid talking about salary.

e-whammy….personal AND negative).  Don’t even talk about things you don’t like.  Keep it positive.

If they ask you, say something like, “Salary is less of an issue for me than whether or not the job is a great fit.  I’m sure you’re going to offer something that’s fair for this job, and I’m really interested in it so far.  Can you tell me more about X?”  (X being something about the job…you’re redirecting the conversation here.)

Don’t reveal your concerns about this job yet.

If you are worried about the salary or the hours or the travel requirements, DO NOT bring it up at this point.  Even if you find out that there’s no problem, expressing your concern to them at this point will read to them as a huge negative.  You will seem like a negative person, and it will be a mark against you.


Got a big phone interview coming up? Let’s make sure you’re ready with a half-hour of coaching!


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