Telephone Interview Tips

Telephone interviews, especially for a first interview, are becoming increasingly common for today’s job seeker.  Telephone interviews provide an efficient and cost-effective way for an employer to screen potential candidates and evaluate whether there is a good fit for the position. Likewise, job seekers can use a telephone opportunity to gage their interest in a potential employer and location.

Be Prepared and Confident!

Approach a telephone interview with the same level of preparation and seriousness as you would a face-to-face meeting. Research the company; be prepared to articulate how your background, skills, education and experience make you uniquely qualified for the position; and develop good questions for the interviewer. The impression you make over the telephone and the manner with which you present yourself are likely to influence whether you’ll be seriously considered for the position, and perhaps offered the opportunity for a follow-up interview.

Coordinate the logistical aspects of the telephone interview well in advance of the scheduled interview. Record the date and time of the telephone interview and know who will be calling whom. Normally, the employer initiates the call to the candidate; however, do not assume that this is always the case. If possible, secure a landline phone in a quiet space with minimal risk of distractions and disable call waiting.  Conducting an interview using a cell phone runs the risk of poor reception, a dropped call, and interference.   Scheduled telephone interviews normally last between 20-30 minutes, though some can last up to an hour.

All job seekers should be aware that once you begin circulating your resume, you could potentially receive a call from an employer without notice and the purpose of the call could be a brief pre-screening interview. If the call arrives at an inopportune time or if you are not prepared to answer questions, you can ask to schedule the call at another time. If you answer a call you should be prepared to answer basic interview questions with confidence.  Don’t hesitate to let the call drop to voicemail if you are not prepared or if the setting is not an appropriate environment for a professional conversation.  Make sure that you have a professional-sounding voicemail greeting.


Talking on the phone during an interview may be more challenging that it seems. Practicing will give you the confidence you need to have a successful telephone interview. Have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview and tape record it so you can determine how you sound over the phone.  You want to appear confident, articulate, knowledgeable and professional. Adjust the speed of your speech so that you don’t talk too fast or too slow, and practice minimizing casual “mums”, “uhs” and “okays.”  Rehearse answers to typical interview questions and be sure that your answers are organized, well thought out and concise.  If it helps you, you can use note cards to remind you of questions or points you may want to address during the telephone interview.  Be careful not to sound like you are reading a prepared statement if you do elect to use note cards.

Just Before the Telephone Interview

Prepare your body, mind, and physical appearance as you would for an in-person interview. Get plenty of rest, eat a nutritious meal, even groom and dress so that you feel comfortable and can present as an energetic and enthusiastic candidate.

Ensure that you have a pen/paper close by, as well as a copy of your resume, questions that you want to ask the employer, and a copy of any documents that you submitted to the employer earlier (e.g., cover letter, transcript). Make sure that you re-read the position description before the interview begins, and have a copy of the job description on hand.

Turn off call waiting so that the interview is not interrupted, remove or turn off any possible distractions in the interviewing space (e.g., alarm clocks, TVs, cell phones, noisy animals, or roommates), and close the door.

Tips for During the Interview

  • Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
  • Keep a glass of water handy in case you need to wet your mouth.
  • Smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
  • Sit up straight at a table or desk, or stand up – your voice will sound stronger, and you may feel more self-assured.
  • Speak directly into the phone, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly.
  • Feel free to gesture as you usually would while engaged in conversation.
  • Use the person’s title (Mr. or Ms. and his or her last name.) Use the first name only if the interviewer asks you to. If multiple people interview you, jot down their names and titles for future reference.
  • Have your resume and supporting materials nearby, but don’t read directly from them.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer and give the interviewer ample time to speak as well.
  • Take your time – it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.
  • Keep answers brief and concise.
  • Remember your goal is to set up a face-to-face interview. After you thank the interviewer, reiterate your interest in the position and say that you would appreciate the opportunity for an in-person interview.

After the Interview – Continue to Make a Lasting Impression

  • Immediately jot down notes about what you were asked and how you answered. Note parts of the conversation that you feel went very well, and perhaps aspects that didn’t go as well (for use in future interview preparation). Identify points that you would like to clarify or expand on in a follow-up interview, topics that require additional research or preparation, and additional questions that you have for the interviewer.
  • Immediately after the interview send a thank-you note.