Learn how to Excel at Your Phone Interview

The phone interview – otherwise known as the screening interview – is an interview, in reality, just like any other. You are going to need to prepare and deliver in just the same way as you would in a face-to-face with your prospective employer.

We have assembled a few tips to help you ace your first and all-important encounter during the interview process.

Etiquette is Essential

Whether you have scheduled the call or not, be prepared. The way you answer your phone should be professional. Work out in advance how you want to present yourself.

And if the phone rings at a moment that does not work for you, or if you feel unprepared, do not be afraid to suggest postponing. It is much easier to tell a recruiting consultant that you are in the middle of an assignment, say, and suggest a follow up at a time that suits, than to plough on when you have been caught off your guard.

Do Your Research

Just as you would prepare for a face-to-face interview, you are going to want to be able to handle tough questions and have something confident and authoritative to say on the phone.

Take the time to read through the job description and think deeply about how your aptitudes, experiences, and professional aspirations map to the position. Do your due diligence too in terms of the company and its culture. Be ready to answer questions about what interests you about this role and organization.

Remember that this is a two-way street. Just as you are finding out as much as you can about your potential future employer, recruiters will most likely be doing their research into you and your profile. So make sure that your online presence is working for you. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and think about opinions, interests, and affiliations that you share online. It will also be important to clean up your social media presence in general.


Interviewers are likely not only to ask you what it is about the offer that appeals to you, but will also have a host of questions about your experience, knowledge, skills, expectations – in short, they want to know what makes you the ideal candidate for this particular job.

Review the sorts of questions you are likely to be asked and think deeply about how you will answer them. Do not be tempted to over-sell yourself. Be sincere in your answers, stick to facts, and provide information that you can expand upon in the conversation.

Also, have your own questions prepared beforehand. Some of the things you might want to think about are:

  • What challenges will this role bring?
  • How is the role likely to evolve over time?
  • What kind of skills or attitudes are new recruits expected to bring?

Listen Carefully

Sounds obvious, but it can actually be harder to focus on questions over the phone that in it is face-to-face. Make a conscious effort to listen to each question and think for a second or two how to respond to exactly what the interview is asking. If you are not sure you have understood a question, do not be afraid to ask for a clarification. The objective for both of you is to discover if you are the right fit for the job, so it is key that the right information is exchanged.

Prepare Your Environment in Advance

The last thing you need as you interview for a job is an unexpected interruption, a problem with connectivity or obtrusive background noise. Choose a place and an environment that works for you.

Ensure that your phone is fully charged, or that your WiFi works well, if you are meeting over video conferencing. It is also a good idea to have some water nearby to soothe a dry throat, as well as a notebook and pen. You may need to take notes or jot down an important question that arises during your conversation.

If you have a laptop available, that would also be another item to keep close. You can have your research and notes from preparing for the interview pulled up on the screen before your interview.

Consider Your Body Language

Odd as it may seem, the way you sit or gesture, even an occasional smile, will convey something more about you and your attitude to your phone interviewer.

Relaxing your posture and physically settling into the conversation will help you take charge of the exchange. And the impression you make will be more positive. Though your interviewer cannot see you, they can hear the inflections in your tone. Your relaxed demeanor, confidence level, enthusiasm will all be discernable in your voice.