Top 10 Tips to Help You Succeed in a Phone Interview

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Telephone interviews can be just as terrifying as face-to-face job interviews, but the key to success lies in good preparation well in advance.

If you hate these stressful one-on-one sessions as much as I do, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. To help you out, we’ve put together some excellent tips on what you need to do before, during and after a phone interview!


Before the Interview

1. Practice

The best way to start your preparation is to practice with some of the most common interview questions. This should ensure that you have your answers ready and that you won’t struggle coming up with one on the spot. Of course, you will need to improvise to some degree but you will at least have a rough idea of what you need to say. Here are a couple of questions you should practice with:

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • Are you willing to relocate or travel for this job?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why are you leaving your current position?
  • If we here to hire you, how soon can you start?
  • What salary are you looking for?

2. Prepare Your Own Questions

Make sure you come up with a few good questions to ask yourself at the end of the interview – after all, you’re interviewing the employer as much as they’re interviewing you.

Jot down any questions you’d like to ask and make sure to ask them at the right time. This will, essentially, demonstrate that you’ve researched the company and want to find out more about what they do.

Do remember to avoid the salary question, though!

3. Read Your CV

When you’re job hunting, you need to ensure you know your CV inside out. Familiarising yourself with what you’ve written on your CV can help you better answer employers’ questions with examples of your experience, skills and qualifications, as well as boost your confidence. It’s all a good idea to have your CV in front of you during the interview, in case you’re asked to walk the interviewer through it.

4. Control Your Environment

If you want to get the best out of your interview, you’ll need to find a place that’s quiet and distraction-free. Make sure that you turn off the TV and ask your family and friends not to call you for the duration of the phone interview. Eat a light snack an hour or so before the call and keep a glass of water handy in case you need it. You can even shower, groom and dress up to feel like you are ‘in the moment’. Also, if your mobile service is unreliable, prefer to use a landline – and if you do, make sure you set your mobile phone to ‘Silent mode’.


During the Interview

5. Listen Carefully

Active listening is an important skill for this type of interview. Listening carefully to what the interviewer has to say is absolutely crucial for success, as well as rapport-building, so make sure they have your undivided attention.

It’s also a good idea to take notes of all the important points they’re making to avoid forgetting addressing a particular point in your responses.

Meanwhile, make sure you avoid doing the following things:

  • Asking them to repeat questions. While it’s likely you might miss something they say, try to ask them to repeat everything they say.
  • Nobody likes being interrupted, so make sure they finish saying what they have to say before you start talking.
  • Taking charge of the discussion. Even though you’ve got a lot to say, it’s important that you let employers dominate the discussion.
  • Multi-tasking. Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat or drink while you’re on the phone with a potential employer. If you feel your throat dry, take a sip of water but remember to do so in a discreet way and to move the telephone away from you.

6. Master Phone Etiquette

How you begin the discussion is of utmost importance. When it’s your turn to speak, address your interviewer as Miss, Mrs or Mr, unless invited to use his or her first name. If you’re answering the phone, saying something like ‘Good morning/afternoon, Emma Jones speaking’ is enough. If you’ve been ask to call the employer, you could say something like: ‘Good afternoon, may I speak to Mr Williams, please? I have a telephone interview with him for 3pm.’

If you didn’t hear or understand a question, it’s perfectly fine to ask for a clarification (just make sure this isn’t a regular thing, as discussed previously). Before you answer, think about what you need to say, and take a few seconds to come up with a good response.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Tone. Do you sound accepting, humble, positive or negative, arrogant and unwilling?
  • Do you think other people enjoy hearing your voice? Is it pleasant to the ears? If you’ve ever been told you’d make a good radio presenter, there’s nothing to worry about here!
  • Can you control the volume of your voice so that it’s not too loud or too quiet? Turn down your voice if you think it disturbs the listener, and turn it up if they can’t hear you well.
  • Talking fast is a sign of nervousness. If need be, slow down your pace when on the phone but just enough so that you don’t sound low on energy.
  • Try not to mumble. Have your head held up high so that your throat is kept open, and speak clearly.
  • Keeping the same tone of voice can be boring, so make sure you speak with emphasis to keep interviewers engaged.

Finally, avoid using informal language, especially slang. Your goal is to sound as professional as possible, so avoid talking like you’d normally talk on the phone with friends. A useful trick is to dress the part – you’ll feel as if you’re in an actual interview room with your interviewers, and this will help you take a more formal approach. Remember: you want to leave a good, long-lasting impression.

7. Sit up Straight

Simply put, your body language can make or break your interview.

If you’re slouching or lying on your bed, you’re going to have a hard time articulating what you want to say and might end up confusing employers. To avoid this, make sure you stand or sit up straight. Making hand movements and walking around the room can help you express yourself better. Also, adopting a high power pose can make you feel more confident and less stressed.

8. Smile

Smiling over the phone makes a huge difference in the tone of your voice. Studies suggest that smiling affects how you speak to the point where listeners can hear you smile, so to speak, and can identify the type of smile based on sound alone. In a phone interview, a single smile has the power to make you sound more upbeat, confident and friendly.


After the Interview

9. Say ‘Thank You’

Towards the end of the call, thank employers for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with you. You should also take this opportunity to quickly reiterate your interest in the job and to ask any further questions you may have. It’s also a good idea to ask about what the next step is and when you can expect a reply (and whether they also contact unsuccessful candidates).

10. Follow Up

After the interview, make sure you send a ‘thank you’ letter to confirm your interest in the job and to discuss the next steps – but don’t do this immediately after the interview. You don’t want to seem desperate, after all! Ask them if they need proof of your qualifications, give them links to your online profiles, blog or portfolio, and let them know when you’re available. Don’t forgot to follow up after a couple of weeks if you don’t hear back them.


These tips can prove handy if you want to persuade employers and ace your next phone interview.

Have you ever been interviewed on the phone? What was it like? Let us know in the comments section below!