Phone interview tips

phone interviewPhone interviews start becoming a norm, when hiring candidates for a job. They act as the initial screening process that filters out unqualified candidates in the first round, saving the hiring company time, effort and a lot of money!

The phone interview process

The protocol for a company’s hiring process is:

  • first the screening of resumes,
  • next the phone interview, and last the
  • ‘in person’ interview.

The phone interview allows companies to gain a quick insight and the interviews generally last around thirty minutes. The interviewing person will try to understand on how much you know about the position and the company, and whether or not you would be a good person to bring in.

Phone interviews are just as crucial as ‘in-person’ ones, impressing a potential employer on the phone is a great way to get to the next step – the ‘in person interview’.

How to prepare for a phone interview?

Performing a successful interview takes some practice: Role-playing with friends may sound silly but it is a great way to get comfortable naturally answering questions and holding a conversation on the phone with a potential employer. Depending on the company, they will either have a recruitment company conduct the interview or they will have someone within in the company calling. Either way it is important to do thorough research on the company. Learning as much as one can about the company before the interview shows that you are committed, professional, and interested in the company.

Having your resume and job description readily available (a print out or open on your computer) will minimize pauses in your conversation. Having short notes prepared, bullet points, with important achievements will help you during the interview.

Keeping answers short and complete is key in a phone interview. Recruiters are not looking for life stories, try to avoid to speak no longer than 1 min, that way, you allow the recruiter to go through all their questions.

Be positive and smile

During the interview it is important to have a positive energy. An upbeat manner is really important in conveying a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for the job, and lets the interviewer know that this job is something you would be excited for everyday and that company culture would benefit from hiring you. One of the most important aspects of any interview is having questions prepared; this is another way to show interest in the position and company. Simple questions that will help clarify issues or help prepare you for the next step in the hiring process are great.

Typical phone interview questions

A phone interview will start with greeting each other. The next step is generally to walk the interviewing person through your CV. That way, the conversation will start flowing. You need to provide a short summary of what you’ve done over the last years. Keep it short, as further questions to your CV will be asked in the ‘in person’ interview.
Once the CV part is finished – a couple of knowledge based and behavior based question will follow e.g.:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • When you have conflict priorities – how do you deal with it?
  • You mentioned you worked on project x – can you provide some challenges and how have you overcome them?
  • What achievements have you accomplished in your last job
  • Describe a failure of yours – how did you deal with it?
  • How do you balance work and life?
  • How do you measure success?
  • Tell me about your dream job?
  • Are you a risk taker?
  • Which event in the News from yesterday surprised you?

The phone interview questions can vary – depending on the person who will conduct the interview. If a recruitment agency will call you – you will get asked more behavior questions (what would you do in this situation). If the HR manager of the company will call you, it is likely to get more questions about your experience at your last company and the activities you’ve performed. If a future working colleague will interview you – it is very likely you will get asked knowledge based questions (how did you do this or that).

Therefore it is critical to find out:

  • Who the person is (name)
  • Where does this person work for (e.g. hiring company or for a recruitment agency)
  • What role this person has


Phone interviews have the appearance of being an informal process that don’t require the same preparation as an ‘in person’ one, but they are your first step in the process of getting hired.

Being professional on the phone is critical, even going a step further and getting professionally dressed sitting at a desk is helpful to put you in a professional mind-set.

One tip that is often overlooked is having the interview on a reliable phone, a landline is best for reliability. Landlines may seem like a thing of the past, but knowing that a call won’t be dropped or plagued by static is a huge relief when on the phone. One less thing to distract and worry about when in the interview can lead to clearer thinking when answering questions. Less distractions also means finding a quiet place to have the interview.

Follow up

Once the interview is over a follow up via email, thanking them for taking the time to interview you goes a long way. A simple short re-iteration of why you would be perfect for the job is not necessary but could be beneficial. A phone interview allows you not to have to worry about reading social nonverbal cues and signs, and will add a level of confidence when going for the in person interview. The prep work going into the phone interview will pay off in the long when getting hired for a company.

Do you have similar experiences with phone interviews? Please let me know! Thank you!


Phone interview tips was last modified: January 16th, 2014 by sandra

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6 Responses to Phone interview tips

  1. Mia January 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Hi Sandra, great post. I once had a phone interview in my room but my cat was always running around me, seeking attention and to get cuddles….needless to say, I got totally distracted and didn’t get further in the interview….

  2. Shrini January 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi, I had a phone interview once where I forgot to switch of my mobile phone! So, always a good idea to switch it on silence! 😉

  3. Karthik R March 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    Hi , Any telephonic taken from Home , I make sure I lock myself in the room and instruct my kids that I am in a important meeting and not to disturb . Always made sure I use a ear phone so that I hear the properly. Mobile is best with ear phone rather than a telephone.

    • sandra March 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      Excellent tip – thank you for contributing!!! Really appreciate it!

  4. Nelma Jean Hix December 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    how do i answer…what are your short comings?

    • sandra December 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

      you always provide an example of a shortcoming and what you do about it. For example:
      As a (project) manager I always struggled with project financials especially when my project (or budget) ran over the end of the financial year. I recognized my shortcomings and I attended a training course for “Accounting for project managers”. In this course I learned how to treat project financials, tax implication, accruals. Since then, I’m feeling very confident and competent in dealing with numbers.

      Can you see in the above example? I used this question and turned it around – instead talking of something negative (my shortcomings) I turned it into my strengths. Hope this helps 😉

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