6 Helpful Phone Interview Tips

By Christina Stokes

In-person interviews take a lot of time away from busy people and require more resources.

Beyond your application and résumé, most companies will arrange a first-round phone interview with you to evaluate your candidacy before lining up a visit. Take this just as seriously as an in-person interview — the recruiter or hiring manager is looking to get a feel for your communication and presentation skills, and a deeper insight into your experience and personality.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

How will a phone interview be scheduled?

If your application has made it through a pre-screening process, then you will usually receive an email with a request to line up the initial phone interview. If they ask for your best availability, then try to provide a minimum of three date options and time frames for the call, and be sure to reserve an hour for the conversation. Many phone interviews will take much less time, but it is better to not have to rush off of the call. Make sure that the voicemail on your device is a professional one.

Who will participate in the initial phone interview?

During a phone interview, you can typically expect only one person on the other end of the line. This person is usually a recruiter, talent acquisition professional or HR team member. Sometimes, you might be speaking directly to the hiring manager or company owner. This depends on the size of the organization. Try to confirm the name of the person who you’ll be speaking with in advance, so that you have the opportunity to do some background research.

What should I do before the call?

In addition to looking up the person you will be speaking with, research the organization and reread the job description. Prepare a list of smart questions for the interviewer. Have a notepad and pen available to take notes during the call. Be well rested.

Although you may be compelled to be in your pajamas, sometimes it’s best to dress professionally because it can improve your mindset and allow a positive headspace for the interview. If you have the option to use a landline phone, then do so. Have a copy of your résumé in front of you as a reference tool, but don’t read off of it directly.

What sorts of questions might I be asked?

Like any interview, you’ll be expected to answer questions about your experience, career path and education. There may also be questions about your availability, salary expectations, long- term interests and potential start date.

Be prepared to discuss why you’re out of work, or why you’re looking to leave your current employer. Smile while you’re speaking, too. Believe it or not, you can hear the enthusiasm that a smile injects into your speech.

What should I not do during the phone interview?

The long-winded reply is a red flag. Try to answer questions in a calm, clear and concise way. If you notice that you’ve been talking for several minutes, then pause and ask the interviewer if they have any questions about what you’re describing. You may want to shift gears, or even interject with a question of your own. A one-sided conversation will not get you into an interview room.

What should I do afterward?

Before you hang up, confirm the interviewer’s email address, and be sure to send them a thoughtful thank-you note following your phone interview. Reference any key takeaways from your conversation, and offer to provide any additional materials they might need. Express your interest again and mention that you hope there will be an opportunity to meet in person soon.

photo credit: alissa kumarova

4 thoughts on “6 Helpful Phone Interview Tips

  1. As a graduating senior, I will be passing these tips along to many of my friends. These are great tips that I will make a checklist out of for what to expect going forward in the interview process.
    -Allie Rose, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

  2. This post is so timely. Now more than ever, professionals are depending on phone interviews to stay connected to the workforce during this social distancing era. The advice mentioned is timeless and applicable, bringing value today and for the future beyond our new reality.

  3. Hi, I am P.R. student at Southeast Missouri State University and I was wondering how you think getting in contact with them again should go? Is it appropriate to call again or just simply an email? Also, how long is the appropriate time to wait to do so?

    1. Rules are in flux for hiring due to COVID-19 and the fact a majority of hiring managers are working from home. They are living online. Office voice mail isn’t being checked as often, and many are not providing or encouraging calls on their mobile phones. Bottom Line: Email is the preferred method of checking in. I suggest one email follow up a week after initial interview. Usually, you’ll get a response if they’re interested. No response? Move on, don’t waste your time with people who are ignoring you.

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