Telephone interview tips: dos and don’ts

‘Recruiters call me on my cell phone…’

More and more companies are turning to telephone interviews as their ideal way of screening candidates. But aside from treating it the same as a regular interview (and/or misquoting Drake lyrics), how can you make sure you’re best prepared when you finally get the call?

We’ve already covered some common phone interview questions, but to help you stand out, here are some of our top telephone interview tips:




Your research.  Just like a face-to-face interview, start by finding out as much as you can about the company. Find out about the size and structure of the company, its products and services and the markets it works in (including looking at competitor’s websites). The best place to start is the employer’s website, but also keep an eye out for news articles, which may mention plans for growth and expansion.

Write down any questions you want to ask.  A phone interview is a really good opportunity to find out more about the role you’ve applied for, the company culture and opportunities for growth. And always make sure you have a pen and paper handy for note taking (here’s our list of interview questions for employers, just in case you’re struggling for inspiration).

Have your CV to hand. In all probability, the recruiter will have a copy of it too, so you may not be asked about it in detail. However, they may open the interview by asking questions about your experience. It’s also a good way to ease into the call while allowing them to find out how communicative you are.

Smile. OK, so we know it sounds strange – but it actually works. Although your interviewer can’t see you (because that would be weird), always try and remain smiling throughout the conversation. It helps ensure you sound upbeat and, according to research, people can actually hear you smile. You have been warned.

Listen. Undoubtedly the most important element to consider. Take on board all elements of their questions, and make note of anything that seems of particular importance, just in case they refer back to it later. Even if they don’t, you can use it as a cheat sheet when answering the inevitable ‘any other questions’ invitation at the end of the interview.


Other telephone interview tips: use a landline, turn your mobile phone off, have a glass of water to hand, enunciate, remember to breathe.




Treat it differently from a face-to-face interview. Strange as it sounds, it’s a good idea to dress like a professional. Obviously the interviewer can’t see you, but it’s harder to feel – and therefore sound – professional if you’re still sitting in your dressing gown.

Get distracted. You need to remain focused on the task at hand, something that can prove difficult, if you still have one eye on the TV. The same goes for your partner/family members. They might be being supportive, but your interview should be a two way conversation. Having their frantic arm flapping and mouthed words of encouragement in the background will only put you off.

Eat. There is a time and a place for snacking. Five minutes before your phone interview isn’t it. You might think you’re being quiet – but chances are that you aren’t. A mumbled answer because you have your mouthful is memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Especially important if you’re a nervous eater.

Interrupt. The easiest way to avoid irritating the interviewer is to let them finish their sentence, so always allow for a gap before you begin answering. Not only will it give you time to think of a coherent response, it will also mean you don’t speak over the person you’re trying to impress. Just make sure you approach gaps with a degree of caution. There’s a difference between a courteous pause and an awkward silence…

Sound bored. Remember when we said about remaining attentive a few paragraphs ago? Well it’s kind of a big deal… Again, it may seem obvious, but when you haven’t done a telephone interview before, it’s easy to overlook. Try to sound positive, and avoid yawning or mumbling your responses. Even if you haven’t understood every single sentence, just go with it. Make the right noises, and you’re a shoe in for the next stage.


Other telephone interview don’ts: chew gum, smoke, zone out, talk about yourself in the 3rd person, say I love you by accident at the end.


The worst thing you can do at an interview? 

OK, so out of all the classic interview nightmares, which are the ones that really worry jobseekers the most?

We spoke to a group of university students to find out – and see if recruiters actually agree…



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One thought on “Telephone interview tips: dos and don’ts

  1. Stuart Banks - December 21, 2017 at 19:26

    A telephone interview is exactly the same as a face to face interview, except the interviewer cannot see whether you are appropriately dressed for an interview. He or she can judge from the professional tone of your voice, the relaxed but alert and confident pace of your verbal replies and affirmation of questions requested for technical competency and customer services skill set: Whether you are (a) Used to speaking with people of different backgrounds, skill level application and appreciation. (b) Enthusiastic and appreciative of how your skill set, knowledge and capability can improve the expectations of others. (c) Possess the humility and humanity to work effectively and cooperatively with others in a coordinated and time efficient manner.