Tips to Make Sure You Don't Mess Up Your Next Phone Interview

Phone interviews are the pre-screening of choice for most sports employers, so we will all have to face them at some point. How do you nail the phone interview so you can get the face-to-face one? That's the subject of this weeks Q&A!

Hi everybody I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for and this is the Work in Sports podcast.

Last week on our private facebook group I asked everyone to post a GIF that exemplifies the status of their sports job search.sports jobs podcast

43 people responded… and they were pretty darn hilarious, but at the same time kind of depressing. 81% of the respondents had negative themes to their current job search.

The cat running up a slide and getting nowhere… kid crying during a TV interview… a justin timberlake or two…

I mean I laughed a lot…but it was sad, man.

I want better things for all of you, that’s why I do this damn show. I’m not here for the sponsors… psst, there aren’t any.

Unemployment is low thanks to Obama, and we have over 10,000 sports jobs available on our site right now, so what is going wrong?  Where is the disconnect between your skills and their openings?

Before we get into today’s question, which is related to this subject, you’ll see…I want you to go through a little checklist:

As yourself:

  • Am I being too specific? – Sometimes you need to broaden your search and change what you are willing to accept as an entry level position to get things started.
  • Am I being too rigid on where? I’ve said it many times before, you often need to relocate for sports careers – go where the opportunities are, take some chances, sports isn’t a passive industry, you can’t wait for something to come to your door. Also, make this clear in your cover letter. Finish off by saying something like – “While I am not currently local to the Pittsburgh area, I am willing and anxious to relocate for an opportunity like yours.” Phrase it better, but let it be known relocating is not an issue.
  • Are you lacking primary skills? You need the tangibles! What do you have that they need – if you can’t answer that question, you have work to do.
  • Have you done a personal audit? Check yourself and your skill set against job descriptions. Where are the gaps?
  • Are you networking? If you aren’t connecting with all of the gueests on this show – if you are active on LinkedIn sharing, commenting and liking, if you aren’t going to your career center and finding out about alumni in your area of expertise – you are not working hard enough at getting a job. It’s work – put in the time.

Alright let’s get on to today’s question – this one comes from Morgan in South Bend – I have known Morgans who are men, and Morgan’s who are women, so I will not specify gender and I will not judge. 

Morgan asks –

I’ve been binge listening to your podcast and I have to say I love it, I can’t believe how much advice you give that motivates and inspires me to take action.

[thanks morgan]

You’ve talked a lot about interview techniques including video interviews… but I have a phone interview next week that I am very nervous about. Do you have any tips?

YES! I’ll tell you this, I hate phone interviews. They always feel off-rhythm to me. I know for me personally I feed off of body language and reading the room… without that I feel like I’m trying to play basketball with both my hands tied behind my back.

Which means I dribble with my face. Which is awkward.

That said, phone interviews are a reality of our world and the most common pre-screening used before bringing someone in for an in person interview… so we all must deal.

Here are a few tips to help smooth out this phone conversation:

Let’s start with a couple easy logistical issues that are pre-interview – remember someone has to call you first to set up the interview:

1: Check your voicemail outgoing message. I did mine about 5 years ago and never thought of it again, I called myself one day to find my phone and heard my message… it was awful. I sounded depressed or like I had a really bad headache.

This is not a good first impression. If a recruiter or employer calls you and gets your voicemail…you want a good impression.

2: I suggest you keep a spreadsheet very handy of all the jobs you have applied for. Name of company, job title, location, area code and any research notes.

Why? Because people call without warning and you want to have something to spark your memory as to what this role or position may be. Why area code? Because if you get a call from a number you don’t recognize, you can look at this sheet and say oh this could be the San Diego Padres…better answer this one.

3: If you are not in position to answer an important call – let’s say you are in the line at Starbucks or in the bathroom at Kohl’s…don’t answer, let it go to voicemail and be ready to call them back when you are in a better place/state of mind.

Remember, impressions matter.

Ok, now for the interview.

1: Get yourself in a quiet room. If you only have a dorm room, well book a small conference room at the library or as a friend to use their room. It must be quiet so you can focus. No distractions.

If you are old like me, no kids around, no dogs, you must have quiet. Nothing sounds worse than a dog barking or kid crying in the backgroiund. The interviewee will say “it’s not problem” but in their mind their thinking “this sucks”. Turn off call waiting… nothing worse than getting a beep from Mom during the interview.

2: Find a rhythm. When the other person is talking we all have a tendency to throw out “I’m listening cues” little verbal sounds to let the other person know you are focused o them… a little “yep” or “uh huh” works when you are face to face… but on the phone it’s not good. Be 100% quiet.

I’ve learned this more and more on the podcast when I am doing interviews. When I say anything while the other person is speaking, it interrupts the rhythm of the conversation and puts an unnecessary strain on the flow.

Be quiet when they are talking… wait til they are 100% done, and then go. If you have to take a note here and there while they are asking, go for it, write down a word or two to spark a point you wanted to make… but don’t talk until they are definitely done.

3: I’ve heard people say dress like you are going for an interview in perso because this gives you extra focus. I think this is baloney… I say dress comfortably. I’m wearing a t-short and jeans during all of my podcast interviews and that’s how I feel comfortable… why would you want to be anything other than comfortable.

I guess that’s personal choice, but when I hear people say they put on a suit to a phone interview… that just sounds weird. Go for comfort.

4: Surround yourself with your tools. Resume, follow up questions you have, data and research about their organization, write down a list of what you consider your strengths, a few weaknesses or areas of improvements, and then tangible skills. You don’t want to forget what makes your great… no one else is jumping on the line and saying “I’d just like to mention Morgan also knows Photoshop.

In a face-to-face you can’t bring that stuff with you… in a phone interview you sure as hell can. So do it.

5: You have to end strong – have follow up questions ready, make them smart, we discussed this in an earlier podcast episode, thank the interviewer and don’t be afraid to say – I’d love an opportunity to meet face to face and continue this discussion in the future.

That’s letting them know, I’m serious, I’m qualified, and I’m interested. 

Hope that helps Morgan! Wednesday BK in the house.

By Brian Clapp | October 22, 2018
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