Mastering the Phone Interview

By XTGlobal Posted 10-Sep-2014

For many companies, a phone interview is the first part of the hiring process once they’ve decided your resume demonstrates the skills and experience they need. While a phone interview can feel informal, failing to take it as seriously as you would an in-person interview can make other candidates seem like a better choice. Follow these seven phone interview tips to ensure that you make the best possible impression on the person on the other end of the line.

Answer professionally

While there’s nothing wrong with just saying hello when you answer normal phone calls, a business interaction as important as the phone interview demands an enhanced level of professionalism. Andrew G. Rosen suggests answering the phone with your name because it eliminates an awkward start to the call. Something as simple as “This is…” is all you need to say to let the interviewer know they’ve reached the correct person.

Even if you don’t have a formal phone interview scheduled, it’s wise to answer your phone professionally when you’re actively searching for a job. An unexpected call from a recruiter or potential employer can go a long way in establishing your professionalism and providing a positive first impression.

Avoid distractions

If the phone interview is scheduled in advance, take steps to ensure you’ll have a quiet, distraction-free environment. Not only does this mean being able to shut yourself away from crying babies or noisy pets, but it also includes taking the call on a phone line with clear reception. Ideally, a landline should be used for phone interviews, but if this isn’t possible, test your cell phone well in advance to ensure you’re in an area with reliable reception and have an adequately-charged device.

Additionally, remember to disable call waiting on the line you’ll use. Not only can the annoying beep of another call distract you from what you were saying, it can also cause your voice to cut out in the middle of a response.

When the phone interview is unexpected, don’t be afraid to let the interviewer know they’ve caught you at bad time. It’s a better use of everyone’s time to reschedule than to move forward when you’re driving or are otherwise unable to give the caller’s questions your full attention. Because many of your answers may be highly technical in nature, pushing back the call will allow you to focus your thoughts and provide a more concise explanation of the highly technical aspects of your experience.

Speak clearly

Managing your nerves is critical for a successful phone interview because nerves can make your voice shake or alter the speed at which you speak. While you may talk to your colleagues at a rapid pace, phone communications require slower, more deliberate speech. The goal of your interview isn’t simply to answer the questions, but to answer them in an easily understandable fashion.

Since the person conducting the phone interview may not share your technical background or knowledge, it’s especially important to speak clearly when you discuss anything they may not know. This includes:

  • Industry jargon
  • Programming languages
  • Technical acronyms

Ensuring your voice is clear and strong can help the interviewer understand what you mean without asking for constant clarification. In some cases, a frustrated phone screener will end the call without gaining a full understanding of your answers.

Be prepared

Always treat your phone interviews as you would an in-person interview, even if you’re told in advance it’s just a short phone screening. Prior to the call, spend a little time researching the company’s website and what other sources have to say about the company. Then take it a step further by evaluating how your professional experience and particular skillset can be an asset for this company.

Since the interviewer can’t see you, you can have the company’s website pulled up in front of you for reference, in addition to notes about the position and resume you have nearby. However, if you believe having this information readily available could turn into a distraction, don’t use them. A simple bulleted list of key points you want to make during your responses can be just as useful as pages of notes.

Summarize responses

Lack of visual cues is a common issue interviewers face during phone screenings. Since they won’t always be able to tell when you’ve finished answering a question, consider summarizing your response with the key information you want them to remember from each answer you provide. If you’ve prepared memorable sound bites, this can be the place to work them into the conversation.

This is also a good time to readdress any technical information they previously asked for clarification on. Ultimately, going out of your way to ensure the interviewer is clear on your qualifications can only be a benefit.

Close with a call to action

Once the interviewer is done with their questions and you’ve asked any questions you had, always leave the interviewer with some sort of call to action. Even something as simple as asking about the next step of the process can let them know you’re still interested in the job after your conversation. Remember, your goal is to advance to the in-person interview stage. The last thing you want is to miss out on a solid career opportunity because the interviewer wasn’t sure you actually wanted the position.

Follow up

While good etiquette may dictate you send a thank you email after a phone interview, your true purpose isn’t just to thank them for their time and consideration. This follow-up communication is your opportunity to reiterate your desire to move forward to the next step in their hiring process. It’s also an excellent way to keep your name at the front of their mind even after they’ve interviewed other candidates.

The main idea to keep in your approach to the phone interview is to be mindful of every detail. As the candidate, you may never know exactly what it is the company is looking for – so it pays to always present the best version of yourself. Doing your research and preparations, giving your full attention, and a thorough follow-up are what employers love to see; it can be the difference between landing the job and continuing the job hunt.

7 Phone Interview Tips: Mastering the Phone Interview - Fremont. (2013, March 13). Fremont. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from

Doyle, A. (n.d.). Telephone Tips and Strategies for Job Interviews. About. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from

Rosen, A. (2011, June 14). 17 Tips to Ace Your Next Phone Interview - US News. US News RSS. Retrieved August 27, 2014, from


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