Phone Interview Tips

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Preparing for your phone interview will give you the confidence to enjoy the conversation, and joy is infectious. Happy interviewers pursue confident candidates. Here are some tips to make your next phone interview successful.


So, Tell Me About Your Background?

If you’re not prepared to hit this question out of the park, just hang up and spend more time preparing for your calls. Seriously. Most hiring managers will start the phone interview with this question and it is an excellent opportunity for you to spend 1-2 minutes telling a compelling story of your career and getting off to a great start. This is a softball question in the sense that they already have your resume in front of them. They are giving you an opportunity to make your resume come to life and create a compelling story line that ends with you being the perfect candidate for the role you are discussing. Practice this elevator pitch before you pick up the phone. It will be well worth it and will be a great kick-off to an excellent phone interview.

Advantages Over Face-to-Face Interviews

You should create a reminder list of topics you want to make sure are included in the discussion and check them off as you go. You can create an environment that puts you at your best by setting up a favorite chair in a favorite room with a favorite beverage to get you in the zone for your call. Make sure there are no external distractions or noise that might disrupt your call.

Warm Up

Talk to someone within the hour before you take the call to ensure that your voice and thought processes are in gear. This may sound ridiculous, but talking is an activity, get warmed up before you play, just like a sport!

Be Yourself

Do not try to be some version of a person you think they want. Be the best version of you. After all, you were invited to this phone screen because of your resume or how you look on paper. This firm chose to invest their time and energy in you, so take this opportunity to use the confidence expressed in your candidacy and be the best version of you on the phone interview. There is something empowering in being genuine, use it.


Research the person that you will be speaking with, and the company and product line as well. Indeed has a terrific Company Research Guide to follow.  If you have not looked at your interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, then you are not prepared. Have their profile up on your computer for the call. If the profile has a picture, use it, talk to it. They might even be looking at your LinkedIn profile while talking to you so make sure your profile has a professional picture and your chronology of jobs and titles are all up-to-date.


Most people have two ears and one mouth, act accordingly. If you are not listening, you are not going to make a good impression and you probably will not know why you are not invited to the next step.

Thank you Email

Send a thank you email within 1-4 hours of your phone interview. Sending it immediately afterwards may seem robotic or formulaic. Instead, take time to make the short note include specifics of your conversation. Remind them of any highlights from the discussion to reinforce your candidacy or use it as a chance to correct or supplement any comments you feel were inadequate. My colleague, Nancy Ragonese, has an excellent blog on thank you notes.

STAR Method

One to three minute Success Stories or using the STAR (Situation Task Action Result) method of answering questions is important for demonstrating your value and building lasting memories with your interviewer. Many people are familiar with the STAR method of answering a question, if you know it, use it. If not, review this publication.

The main strategy of the STAR method is to have a list of situations in your notes in front of you that could come up in the phone interview. Each situation needs one or two success stories in response. For example, suppose that the phone screen is about an MSL role and you are asked how many KOLs you saw in your current position last quarter. (Situation) You could answer very factually and say 54. Alternatively, you could incorporate a success story and say 54 but let me tell you how I got in to see a very difficult KOL, (Task) and once I met him how the interaction went (Action) and afterwards how he introduced me to another KOL that proposed a clinical study that our company decided to fund (Result). This type of story is likely to demonstrate value, get you noticed and get you an in person meeting!

Your Questions

Prepare 3+ long form questions that you can ask the interviewer. What attributes and experience are you looking for in the ideal candidate? How would such a candidate fit in your corporate culture? Questions demonstrate your interest in the role. Actively listen to the answers and drill down a little on the answer to make it a back and forth discussion. However, do not ask too many questions. Let the interviewer drive the process most of the time so that at the end of the discussion they succeed in getting the information they need. Asking one long form question in a half hour phone screen is ideal, but prepare 3+ questions in case the person answers some of your prepared questions in the normal course of conversation. Not having a question when you get asked, do you have any questions, is a big no-no. Do not use compensation as one of your questions.

Want some one-on-one coaching from an experienced Medical Affairs recruiter? Contact Nihar Parikh at nparikh@smithhanley.com.

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