BLOG: Telephone interview – top tips for you to succeed

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BLOG: Telephone interview – top tips for you to succeed

A man in a shirt and tie talks on the telephone for a job interview

A man has a telephone interview for a new job

Having a telephone interview can be very different from being there in person and there are plenty of things that you need to get right to give yourself the best chance of being successful on the day. Anthony McCormack shares a series of tips and tricks to help you make the most of your opportunity.

You find out that you have secured an interview for a job your find attractive but, instead of visiting the place in person, the company in question wants to interview you on the phone.

So should you consider preparing in a different way to normal?

Are the processes and protocols different or do similar rules apply?

As I always say, a set of standard interview preparation techniques always apply:

  • Prepare well
  • Sound confident
  • Make sure you are enthusiastic
  • Be specific

But there are a number of specifics I want to share with you to help you feel good about your chances when you put the phone down.

Firstly consider, what the interview is for and what part of the interview it represents, then act accordingly.

Often the telephone interview is, in reality, a ‘pre-screen’ which is often with an internal recruiter or HR professional. They are often held to narrow down a long list to a short-list of candidates who could then be interviewed face-to-face. This is often done to protect the respective hiring manager’s time by avoiding booking a poorly-matched candidate for a one-hour interview.

Keep it simple and let the interviewer do their job

In this situation it’s not about winning the job, as a hiring decision will be made much later, it’s more about not losing the job by being cut from the process. So keep it simple, don’t over-sell and let the interviewer do their job. The purpose of the ‘pre-screen’ may be stated, for example a technical screen or a communications skills assessment, if not you can always ask and again prepare accordingly.

So what else can be done to prepare for a telephone interview

Ensure you are in a quiet place

Pick a location where you will not be disturbed, free from distractions and in an environment that allows you personally to best focus on the task in hand.  Plan ahead to avoid any potential disturbances. Some of those which may occur are:  someone picking up ‘the other phone’ if you are land-line sharing in the house, babies and children demanding attention, dogs barking, doorbells ringing, noisy computer alerts and miscellaneous alarms.


Personally I favour and suggest a landline if you can plan to be at your preferred location in advance. However, if you go with a mobile phone, ensure you have decent battery and signal. If you decide to go with Skype or other online call options – and I don’t think you should because they could easily lose connection – test for network connection, power supply and sound quality in advance.

Answer appropriately

My suggestion here is don’t just say ‘hello’ and force the interviewer to check if they have the right person. It’s much more personable, professional and useful, to say for example: “Good afternoon, Anthony speaking,” when you answer what is likely to be a scheduled call.

Dress for the interview

This may sound weird, but psychology dictates that for most people, the way they are dressed is going to impact how they communicate. So the best chance of presenting in a professional manner is to dress accordingly. Try it. It can really make a difference.

Body language

Be aware of your body language as physiology, affects psychology which in turn effects your communications. If you are hunched up in a corner, your body language will be closed and you may come across as lacking in energy or confidence. So stand up and stand tall, while taking the interview as this is your best chance at projecting positive energy and self-assurance.

Remember to smile, even though nobody can see you

If you are poker-faced throughout the process, this may hamper rapport, and will likely show in your verbal communication and make you come across as too serious or, even worse, boring and dull. The best way to engage with the interviewer and project your personality across is to smile. As a reminder, a useful tool can be to look at a mirror during the interview. A classic sales mantra is to ‘smile-and-dial’, in an interview you are selling yourself so the same rules apply.


Take extra care to speak clearly because it is easier to be misunderstood on the phone as opposed to being there in person, especially if technology or environment is less than ideal. This may mean you should speak more slowly, especially if you are nervous, prone to speaking fast or have an accent that may not be familiar to the interviewer.


Make extra effort to be succinct. The name of an interview game is always to score as many points in the time available by being specific and succinct to allow the other person to be able to ask all of the questions on their list. Don’t rabbit on. Try to guard against going off-track and end up boring your interviewer.


On the flip-side of the previous two points, it will also potentially be easier for you to mis-hear or mis-interpret the interviewer in a telephone interview. Therefore, listen attentively and ensure that you fully understand the question before giving your concise answer. Apply active listening skills where you acknowledge information as you receive it and ask clarifying questions if necessary.

Take advantage

There are some things that you can do in a telephone interview that will give you an advantage over a face-to-face one and it’s prudent and good tactics to take advantage of these. Have your CV and the job specification out for your reference. Prepare and have notes available on the company/interviewer that you can may be drop in. Write down any questions you may want to ask. Also consider making notes of key things mentioned which you could relate back to. But… please make sure you are not shuffling and rustling papers which will be off-putting and be careful with note taking as it can effect your focus and can actually have the same effect as knocking a few points off your IQ.


As a final caution, there are some things that you may think you can get away with. However, as an experienced telephone interviewer, I’m telling you that you can’t. Good manners will hopefully prevent you from doing these anyway, but these include smoking, eating, chewing gum and even going to the toilet!

Have you got any wins or learns regarding telephone interviews that you can share? I’m always keen to hear people’s ‘real-life’ experiences. Please get in touch if you have.

Read more: Top tips for a great webcam interview

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Anthony McCormack
Managing Director


D:            01275 331307

M:           07983255399