Nearly every civilian job will start with a phone interview. As a veteran who made the transition from active service to a civilian position, I know first-hand that preparation is essential to a successful phone interview. But practicing for your phone interview is just the first step. Once the phone rings and the call starts, you must maximize your short time speaking with the interviewer.

Remember, verbal communication – like non-verbal communication – goes both ways. Just as the interviewer won’t be able to pick up on your body language cues, you won’t be able to pick up on his or her cues either. Consequently, be sure you’re truly listening to what the interviewer says. Subtle cues like a change in tone can speak volumes– and help guide your responses to the interviewer’s questions.

Keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Take notes. With your resume and sample questions in front of you, check off key points such as skill sets or past experiences as you discuss them. By checking off these essentials as you go, you’ll be able to easily see any important details you’ve missed sharing– and quickly work these key points into the conversation before the interview wraps up.
  2. Ask smart questions. Nothing projects enthusiasm and interest like asking well-informed questions. Ideally, you’ll prepare a few questions in advance to use as a starting point on the call. You may also ask questions that reflect your engagement in the conversation, such as requesting clarity around a job task or company role. As the interviewer shares details about the position, jot this information down so you can reference in a question later. Never ask a question that could easily be answered by a simple Google search or the job description.
  1. Prepare for the next round. Take this opportunity to find out from the interviewer what they feel your strengths and weaknesses may be.  This way, in the face-to-face interview, you can re-emphasize your strengths and address any perceived weaknesses.
    • Ask about your strengths: Do you think my background and skill-set closely matches what you are looking for with this role?”
    • Ask about your weaknesses: “Is there anything in my background that throws-up a red flag for you as it relates to this position?”

Finally, as the interview wraps up, ask: “What are the next steps for me?”

Once the call ends, keep your head in the game for a few minutes longer.

  1. Send a thank you email. Keep it short and sweet: reiterate your interest in the position and thank the interviewer for his or her time. If you are working with a recruiter, send the recruiter a separate short message summarizing how you felt the call went.
  2. Assess your performance. Do you feel like you missed highlighting a key point or did you slip into military jargon? Jot down a few notes about what went well and what you can improve upon next time.

This is the second part of a two-part blog series about phone interviewing. You can read the first part here.

To learn more about how to prepare for your first phone interview, contact me at