What to do — and what not to do — during your initial phone interview

Landing your dream job in the field of investment banking is a multi-stage process — and the initial phone interview is one of the first and most important hurdles to clear. While a spectacular phone interview won’t be enough to land you a job, a poor performance can completely derail the hiring process.

With that in mind, let’s review some of the most important “dos” and “don’ts” associated with initial phone interviews.

Do make sure your environment is conducive to a good conversation

It might seem simple, but making sure your physical surroundings are well-suited for an extended phone conversation is an important part of interview preparation. Excessive noise, barking pets or any other loud distractions make you appear unprofessional and poorly prepared — and break your concentration.

Don’t fail to do enough research simply because it’s a phone interview

While it’s true that initial phone interviews tend to be more superficial relative to longer, in person interviews, that’s no reason to skimp on your prep work. Make sure you thoroughly research the bank you’re interviewing with. It also doesn’t hurt to look up your interviewer on LinkedIn, in the event you share some common ground or a potential network connection.

Do use a landline if possible

We all know that landline telephones are gradually going extinct outside the office, yet they generally offer clearer reception and greater reliability. Dropping a cell phone call in the middle of an interview — or having to worry about an undercharged battery if the interview runs long — are easily avoided headaches you’re better off without.

Don’t type or write while you’re on the phone

The incessant clacking of a keyboard isn’t going to put you in the good graces of your interviewer. Stay off the computer, put down the pen and really focus on what your interviewer is saying. Doing so helps you concentrate and put more thought into your next answer.

Do have notes handy

It’s a good idea to keep a copy of your resume and some basic notes nearby. If there are qualifications you’d like to touch on, or ideas you’d like to suggest, having them in written form will help prevent hemming and hawing — or conversational dead spaces where you can’t remember what you’d planned on saying.

Don’t go without practicing once in awhile

A mock phone interview with a friend is great prep work. Friends can offer you insightful feedback, suggesting things about your voice or speaking style you might not otherwise pick up on. Friends can also tell you if you’re speaking too loudly or too softly, mumbling or stammering too much.

Do make sure your breathing is under control

Before you begin the phone call take a few deep breaths. Make sure your breathing is consistent and under control. When people get nervous, they tend to rush their sentences, which can disrupt breathing patterns. This can make you sound nervous or out of breath.

Don’t have a seat

If possible, stand up for your phone interview. You voice will sound stronger and more resonant.

Do make sure you’re current on the latest developments in the field

There are few worse conversation killers than being asked about some recent development in the field of banking or finance only to reveal that the information is new to you. Make sure you’ve read the papers and kept up with current events over the previous week. Failure to do so can make you appear incurious or callow.

The takeaway

Without an impressive phone interview, odds are good you won’t progress to the next hiring stage. Even someone with a sparking resume or CV can be undermined by a poor initial showing on the phone.

Follow the suggestions listed above and you’ll be in excellent position to ace your next interview.

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