Telephone interview tips

Research shows that telephone interviewers make up their minds on a candidate in less than a minute.

More and more companies are turning to telephone interviews to screen candidates, reduce costs and narrow the pool of applicants who’ll be invited for face-to-face interviews.

Many people choose not to take phone interviews seriously and lose out to better prepared candidates, but a telephone interview is as important as any other form of interview or meeting. From the impression you create in the opening moments, to the manner in which you present yourself, your execution will greatly determine whether or not you’ll be successful.

Here is Charteris’s list of Telephone Interviews: do’s and don’ts…

Telephone interview do’s:

  1. Your research– Just like a face-to-face interview, try to find out as much as you can about the company and the job description. The best place to start is the employer’s website, which will provide you with the background information required. Find out about the size and structure of the company, its products and services and the markets it works in (including looking at competitor’s websites). Also, keep an eye out for news articles, which may mention plans for growth and expansion. This knowledge can help set you apart from other candidates.

  2. Take notes on any questions you want to ask – A phone interview is a really good opportunity to find out more about the role you’ve applied for, the organisation’s culture and opportunities for growth in the company. Make sure you have a pen and paper handy for note taking.

  3. Have your CV to hand– In all probability, the recruiter will have a copy of it too, so you may not be asked to describe your background in detail. However, they may open the interview by asking questions about your experience. This is a good way to ease into the call while allowing them to find out how communicative you are.

  4. Smile –This may seem like a bit of a cliché, but it’s one that always rings true. Although your interviewer can’t see you (because that would be weird), always try and remain smiling throughout the conversation. According to research, people can hear you smile. You have been warned.

  5. Listen– Undoubtedly the most important element to consider. You need to demonstrate your listening skills as much as your knowledge and confidence. Take note of anything that seems of particular importance, just in case they refer back to it later. If they don’t, you can bring it up when answering the inevitable ‘any other questions’ invitation at the end of the interview.

Other telephone interview tips:

Have your CV to hand

List your reasons for wanting this position

use a landline

turn your mobile phone off

have a glass of water to hand


remember to breathe.

Telephone interview don’ts:

  1. Treat it differently from a face-to-face interview– Strange as it sounds, it’s a good idea to dress like a professional. Obviously, the interviewer can’t see you, but it’s harder to feel – and therefore sound – professional if you’re still sitting in your dressing gown.

  2. Get distracted – You need to remain focussed on the task at hand. This can prove difficult, however, if you still have one eye on the TV. The same goes for your partner/family members. They might be being supportive, but your interview should be a two-way conversation. Having their frantic arm flapping and mouthed words of encouragement in the background will only put you off.

  3. Eat – There is a time and a place for snacking. Five minutes before your phone interview isn’t it. You might think you’re being quiet – chances are that you aren’t. A mumbled answer because you have your mouthful is memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Especially important if you’re a nervous eater.

  4. Interrupt – The easiest way to avoid irritating the interviewer is to let them finish their sentence. Always allow for a gap before you begin answering. Not only will it give you time to think of a coherent response, it will also mean you don’t speak over the person you’re trying to impress.

  5. N.B. Approach gaps with a degree of caution. There’s a difference between a courteous pause and an awkward silence…

  6. Sound bored – Remember when we said about remaining attentive a few paragraphs ago? Well it’s kind of a big deal… Again, it may seem obvious, but when you haven’t done a telephone interview before, it’s easy to overlook. Try to sound positive and avoid yawning or mumbling your responses. Even if you haven’t understood every single sentence, just go with it. Make the right noises,

and you’re a shoe in for the next stage.

Other things not to do: chew gum, smoke, zone out, talk about yourself in the 3rd person.