Telephone interview tips

Nov 9, 2020

Companies are increasingly using phone interviews, especially now due to COVID 19. Phone interviews are also often used to narrow down candidates for a traditional face to face interview. It is a way of quickly and easily evaluating if an applicant is suitable for the role and determining whether to keep them in the recruitment process or not.

Furthermore, they involve minimal expenses and allow employers to interview people anywhere in the world. As remote working has become a reality for so many jobs, telephone interviews can sometimes be the only option. You also might be offered a video interview, you can read about how to prepare for them here.

With that in mind, here are our best telephone interview tips to help you succeed.


As with a face to face interview, it is necessary to have researched the company. You should know several key details about it, such as it’s size, structure, products and services, and the markets and industries it’s involved in. The employer’s website will usually have most if not all of this information. You might be able to find reports on growth and expansion online through news articles or journals. Also make sure to have a look at some competitors, to give yourself more context on the industry.

If you know who is going to interview you, it is worth googling their name and finding out about them, such as checking their LinkedIn.

You need to also know well the skills and experience that the job specification requires of you. You will be able to tailor your answers and demonstrate to the interviewer that you are a good match for the position.

Be prepared

Be sure that you are somewhere with a strong phone signal and that you have full battery. Double-check who is going to be calling and at what time, be ready 15 minutes beforehand. You should be in a quiet room where you can talk freely, a place where nobody is going to barge in unexpectedly. If there are family members around, let them know not to bother you for the next hour. Also, make sure there are no apps on your phone that are likely to disturb the call with notifications, and of course, turn off any distractions such as a TV or radio.

Write down some questions to ask

Like an in-person interview, a phone interview is also an opportunity for you to find out more about the job and the company. Have some questions written down, as they will ask you at the end if you have any. It is a way to show the employer that you are interested and enthusiastic about the role. The questions can be about things such as the culture of the company or opportunities for progression. If you want some more ideas, here are some good questions to ask at an interview. Resist the urge to ask about the salary, benefits, and holidays. If the interviewer hasn’t mentioned any details about the next step in the process, you should inquire about this.  

Have your CV to hand

You should have your CV next to you and be prepared to talk through it as in a normal interview. They will often ask you about your experience at the start, and having your CV to hand as a point of reference will make this easier. They will want to check that your CV and cover letter are accurate and factual, so it is a good idea to have evidence ready of your work experience.

Be ready for competency questions

Competency-based questions are being increasingly used in interviews. The questions will often ask about soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. For graduate jobs, teamwork and being able to learn quickly are popular skills.

A possible example is: “Describe a time when you were put under a lot of pressure at work. How did you cope?”

A good way to prepare for competency questions is to have a list of examples of when you’ve demonstrated the skills desired in the job specification.

The best technique to use for this is the STAR technique. This is where you explain the situation you were in, the task required of you, the action you took, and the final result. This will give a coherent structure to your answers to help the interviewer see that you can get things done. Here you can see some examples of phone interview questions with answers.


Though the interviewer obviously cannot see you, it is still important to smile. This will help you come across as more enthusiastic and alert. You do not want to come across as bored or uninterested in the role, so make sure your body language reinforces your positive attitude.


Listening is of course crucial in any interview. Make you sure you listen carefully to fully understand their questions and what they expect in your reply. The interviewer needs to know that you are attentive and that you pay attention to the details. If anything sticks out as important you can write a quick note in case it gets referred to or if you have a question related to it.

You don’t want to dominate the conversation when you are responding to questions. It is a two-way conversation and you don’t want it to become a monologue, you want to find out a bit about the employer too. Allow the interviewer to control and guide the conversation.

Be professional

It is important to have a professional phone manner in order to come across as a viable candidate. You are not having a casual chat, so your speech should reflect this. Do not use informal phrases or slang and try to maintain a professional tone.

Firstly, answer the phone promptly. During the call, make sure you are aware of the speed of your speech. Often in interviews candidates are nervous and speak to quickly, so avoid rushing your responses to come across as more relaxed and confident. However, you don’t want to ramble on either, so be concise and to the point.

Allow a few seconds after a question has been asked to respond, to avoid talking over the interviewer and to have some time to think. Having a brief pause will also let the interviewer know that you are considering the question and not just saying whatever comes into your head.

You also might want to dress as if you were going for a face to face interview. This will help you get into the right mindset and reinforce a professional attitude. It will be harder to take it seriously if you are in your pyjamas.

Have a practice call

If you get nervous at the thought of a phone interview, you can ask a family member or friend to give you a practice run. Have your CV and research ready in order to make it as close to the real interview as possible. You can also record yourself to see how you sound and come across on a phone.

Don’t distract yourself

Make sure all devices in the background are turned off. You also want to sit at a desk or table and not slouch in bed. Make sure the only things on the desk are relevant documents to the interview like your CV and questions to ask. If you are easily distracted, you might not want to sit near a window where something might catch your eye. Finally, do not eat anything during the interview, even if it would calm your nerves. Make sure you have eaten well beforehand.

Don’t interrupt

You are trying to impress the interviewer and show them that you are the type of person they want to work with. Interrupting them will not help you achieve this goal. Make sure to let them finish what they’re asking, and do not jump in too early just because you think you already understand the question. Be polite and allow them to have the dominant role in the conversation.

Don’t sound bored

During a telephone interviewer, you want to come across as positive and excited about the job opportunity. It sounds obvious but when you are talking on the phone, it is possible to forget. Be sure to avoid yawning or mumbling.


Succeeding in a telephone interview requires many of the same things as succeeding in a face to face interview. It is necessary to do your homework in researching the company, and preparing answers for the questions they will likely ask regarding the skills required in the job description. As with all types of interview, practice makes perfect, the more you do the more natural you will become at adeptly handling interview questions. If you are still struggling with interviews after reading these telephone interview tips, you can check out our 1 to 1 coaching course.

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