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How To Understand A Phone Interview



How many of you feel uncomfortable speaking on the phone? As members of the socially awkward Millennial generation, our generic comforts of communication start at textversations and skip to coffeeshop chit chat. While our social lives may have adjusted to this new norm, the phone is still a crucial communication tool in the professional realm. Enter the phone interview complex.

Not only are we predestined to shake with sweaty palms throughout minutes one, two, and three, speaking in real time without the luxury of tangible analysis, via text or body language, makes deciphering the success of a phone interview an arduous task.

Fear not! Here are 3 surefire ways to understand the outcome of a phone interview:

So, tell me about yourself?

It’s a given the landscape of your interview will cover your professional background and education. This information serves as the basis for determining your level of qualification for the position. It’s the expected. A sign your interview is going well is if it the conversation takes a turn into the unexpected. The unexpected ranges from inquiring about specific contributions  to previous internships to lifestyle questions in attempt to gage whom you are as a person. The more questions, the better. This shows they’re not only interested in seeing if you’re a fit credentially, but if you’re a fit for the office culture and team social dynamic.

Tick tock goes the clock

Phone interviews are no different than first dates. A clear sign there is a connection is if coffee turns into dinner which turns into a movie. While an interviewer is by no means going to invest in that extent of seduction, a phone interview that lasts longer than scheduled is a strong indicator of interest. Prolonging a preliminary call shows the interviewers is excited about you as a potential candidate. While there is no magic time length, 20, 30, or even 45 minutes is a great sign!

The second date

No one feels safe leaving a situation with unknown prospects. If an interviewer explains the next steps clearly at the end of the call, congrats; you have a second date!


Are you a pro at the phone interview? Comment with your tips and tricks below!


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Intern Spotlight: Sarah Morrison


Tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience.

SM: I am a current senior at Elon University, preparing to graduate this May! Right now, I am interning for Esquire Magazine in NYC within the Fashion Editorial department. I will return to Elon when my internship wraps up next month. I’ve had internships all over the board during my college career, however my internship with Esquire is my first position in the fashion industry! In addition, I am a Brand Ambassador for The Next Step Realty in NYC, a Chapter Advisor for Boston-based, Her Campus magazine, and write for my own Her Campus chapter at Elon.


Where have you interned to date?

SM: My most recent internships include my current internship at Esquire Magazine as well as my internship with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF last summer. I have also held part-time internship positions at OhioHealth and Prime Social Group, both based in my hometown, Columbus, Ohio.


That is quite a variety of experience! What’s been your favorite internship so far? Where do you see yourself headed?

SM: My favorite internship so far has undoubtedly been my current internship at Esquire Magazine. I think I had always envisioned myself in fashion, however, I never thought I would have an opportunity to explore the industry this early in my career. So far, I love the editorial side of things, however, I’m not opposed to exploring other areas like publishing, PR, etc. Overall, I definitely see myself in a creative field in one way or another!


Her Campus is one of our favorite resources for college students! What kind of content do you write for them? Has offering other college students advice helped you grow as one yourself?

SM: Her Campus has truly been one of the greatest stepping stones for my professional career! I’ve been writing for the Her Campus Elon chapter for two years and counting. I tend to pick up stories relating to fashion and beauty. I’m also a Senior Copy Editor for Her Campus Elon, and a Chapter Advisor for the larger Her Campus magazine out of Boston. My Chapter Advisor role in particular has provided me with the opportunity to simultaneously develop my editorial and business skills. I highly recommend others to get involved!


Why do you intern?

SM: I intern because I am eager to learn as much as I can not only about a given industry/company, but also about my own capabilities, and capacity for professional growth. Internships allow me to absorb a tremendous amount of working knowledge from a wide range of entry points. Whether you’re learning from established employees, fellow interns, clients, or intuitively on your own, there is always something to be gained from internships.


What would you say is the most valuable thing you’ve learned through all of your experience?

SM: I’ve learned that there is not always going to be a clear-cut path for completing a task or project. In fashion, there is always something that needs to be done. Many times, there can be a multitude of tasks thrown at you, in which you must quickly decide how you’re going to prioritize. And sometimes, it takes a little creativity or hard research to efficiently complete a tricky assignment. I can’t stress “efficiency” enough; it’s perhaps one of, if not the most important concept when it comes to achievement in any workplace. Also, organization and an eye for detail is key in almost every role, particularly one in the fashion industry.


What do you feel is the key to “efficiency?”

SM: Personally, I believe that the key to efficiency is organization. I’m not saying you have to be OCD, however, strong organizational habits should be a priority. Also, I recommend keeping your eyes and ears open in the office – you can learn so much by (appropriately) tuning-in on the interactions around you!


Do you have a specific system to keep yourself organized?

SM: The first thing I do in the morning is check my email. I respond to messages as needed and quickly address any urgent requests. The beginning of the workday also calls for going over both daily and long-term to-do lists. Each day, I create new daily to-do lists, rank by priority, and periodically work on long-term to-do lists as well. I’m also a big fan of “flagging” important emails to review at the end of each workday.


How would you advise someone to push themselves? Self-motivation can be tricky business.

SM: Personally, I always prefer to adopt a goal-oriented mindset when it comes to succeeding in the workplace. Visualizing a final project while in the process of piecing it together really helps motivate me to finish what I started. In terms of motivation in the job-seeking process, I always try to think of the long-term benefits of internships and overall try to remain optimistic.


What’s been your favorite internship and why?

SM: My favorite internship thus far is definitely my current internship with Esquire Magazine in the Fashion Editorial department. The fast-paced nature of the department guarantees that there is always something to do. As an intern in particular, it’s refreshing to have hands-on work and responsibility everyday. Working fashion shoots is another plus; the surprises here and there continue to keep me on my toes!


Who are some of the mentors who have inspired you?

SM: I’m greatly inspired by my fellow interns–both past and present. Working with my peers has allowed me to more efficiently transition into an intern role, establish essential professional and personal relationships, and more. Working in tandem with my peers has also allowed me to pick up on their strengths, and thus strive to improve my own areas of weakness.


Have you kept in touch with your fellow interns?

SM: I have! Although distance makes it difficult at times, it’s nice to have the convenience of both professional networks (like LinkedIn) and social media networks to stay in touch! The great thing about keeping in touch with fellow interns is that they love Instagram and Snapchat as much as I do!


How do you balance a friendship and a professional relationship with your fellow interns? Do you have any limits?

SM: I’ve come a long way in terms of balancing friendship and professionalism around my fellow interns. My first internship was in event-planning, so I was mostly on my feet working fun sponsored events with my fellow interns. This particular setting allowed me to develop solid professional communication habits from the get-go. Whether you’re in a traditional office environment or not, it’s important to follow the observed rules for professional relationships with both your peers and seniors.  I enjoy engaging in small talk, light conversation, however, I try to leave inside jokes, relationship drama, personal opinions etc. outside of the office. At this juncture, I would say that I’m pretty seasoned in terms of balancing friendship and professionalism with fellow interns!



Do you have any advice for writing a cover letter?

SM: Firstly, I would encourage the writer to incorporate personality throughout the cover letter, without sacrificing professionalism of course. Personally, I always start with a “sales pitch” of sorts that concisely combines my knowledge of the given company and a distinguishing professional skill/quality that I feel would lure in the reader. While tailoring the cover letter to a given company, I then concisely state relevant professional experience and what I can bring to the company.


What about for resumes, since it is very important part of your application and is always up for debate by means of presentation?

SM: I try to keep my resume as concise as possible, however, I don’t abide by any rules when it comes to length. I do organize my resume with header first (name, contact info, professional objective and skill set), followed by professional experience (beginning with the most recent), education, and awards/recognition. I tailor all of this information depending on the job application.


What’s your interview prep process? Any tricks to combat nerves?

SM: Practice, practice, practice! I always make sure that I am prepared for all sorts of questions to be thrown my way. I am very big on research, so I love Google-ing typical job interview questions as well as company-specific interview questions (Glassdoor.com is a life-saver!). In addition, I recommend memorizing your own resume, especially any highlights from your previous positions.


What are three words you would use to describe a rockstar intern?

SM: Sharp (as in mentally-sharp!), positive, and personable!


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

SM: “More than anything else, we need to be efficient”


What’s the best piece of advice you could give to fellow interns?

SM: “If you have to cry, go outside” -Kelly Cutrone


Congrats on landing an internship at Esquire Magazine through our Intern Look book! How did they reach out to you?

SM: Esquire contacted me via email last November, and then arranged a phone interview a few days later. Honestly, I think I’m still on cloud 9!


What’s your favorite part of Free Fashion Internships?

SM: I love the internship search function! It’s both easy and exciting to keep tabs on new internship postings from a multitude of fabulous fashion brands and magazines!


What’s next for you?

SM: Upon graduation, I hope to land an entry-level position this fall in NYC. I definitely see myself continuing to work in fashion, so hopefully it’s in the cards for me! I’m very eager to permanently return to the city that has opened my eyes to this unique industry.


Closing thoughts?

SM: Don’t be the girl who didn’t go to Paris! ;)




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