Top 10 Tips for Managing a Phone Interview

Top 10 Tips for Managing a Phone Interview

Many recruiters nowadays are beginning to stray from the traditional route of meeting potential candidates in person and opt for conducting phone interviews instead. This happens for a number of reasons.

Sometimes an employer will get up to 1,000 job applications and there simply isn’t enough time in a day to meet with all of them.  In this case, a phone interview is a good way of assessing whether a candidate is worthy of advancing to the next round or not or to get further clarifications on their background.

Furthermore, this type of evaluation is also used when the recruiter wants to see how an applicant behaves when he/she is caught off guard. Keep in mind that not all phone interviews are scheduled in advance and sometimes you just have to make the best possible impression under not so perfect conditions.

Because we realize there are many challenges associated with phone interviews, we’ve decided to compile a list of helpful tips to guide you through this process and land you the job you’ve always dreamt of.

1. Be prepared


Realize that after you’ve submitted your application, you may receive a phone call from a potential employer at any time, whether announced or unannounced.

This means you will have to keep your phone charged at all times and be mindful of how you answer calls from unknown numbers. From the moment you pick up your phone, you should convey a calm, professional and warm attitude and certainly not sound as if you’ve been disturbed from something much more important.

If the conversation has been scheduled beforehand, then by all means – make all the necessary preparations to ensure a successful phone interview. Arrange a proper location where you will not be disturbed, have your resume at hand and get a pen and paper ready in case you want to jot down what the recruiter is saying.

While some people like sitting in front of their computer during the interview, so they can quickly look up certain questions which they are not quite familiar with it, we would strongly advise against this.

Not only will this delay a response from your part, but it will make a bad impression on the recruiter, since they might hear you typing and realize you’re trying to cheat your way through.

2. Listen before speaking/Don’t interrupt


When the interview starts, pay very close attention to what the hiring manager is telling you and always let them finish their question before answering.

There are three key reasons for this:

First – it is generally considered extremely impolite to interrupt anyone when they are speaking, even more so when it involves an interviewer.

Second – the question could reveal significant details about what they are trying to find out and their tone of voice may give you an insight into how you should approach that particular topic.

Third – even if you did understand what they are asking, letting them finish their explanation will give you plenty of time to formulate a suitable answer in your head, therefore you will not have to make pauses in your speech and you will appear all the more confident.

3. Don’t get distracted


Once the scheduled phone interview has begun, make sure to avoid all possible distractions. Difficult as it may be, you will have to leave your dog alone for a few minutes, stay away from Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat and definitely forget you even have a TV in your home.

The level of attention that you exhibit during the phone interview is key to nailing a face-to-face discussion or even landing a job directly. So keep the focus on the interviewer and do everything in your power to maintain a professional approach to the situation.

If, however, the interview is unscheduled and you just happen to receive a phone call while you are out doing shopping, kindly explain the recruiter that you are not in a proper setting for this and ask them if they would like to reschedule for an hour later or possibly another day.

Looking for a job is challenging enough, so when you finally get that call, you want to take all the necessary precautions to make sure you will land that position.

4. Choose the perfect setting


If you are asked to participate in a phone interview, then the best possible setting for this is your home (not a café and definitely not your current workplace). There are a number of reasons for this, the main one being that your home is a controlled environment, where you get to eliminate most of the background noise. You can silence the TV, you can close the windows if you don’t want to hear any cars passing by and you can basically have all the privacy you need.

But what if a recruiter calls me while I am at work? Can I quickly step into the kitchen or lock myself in the bathroom and whisper my way through? No, under no circumstances should you consider such a scenario.

5. Smile


I know what you’re thinking: why should I smile when it’s not even a face-to-face interview? Well, as it turns out, we humans have a sixth sense when it comes to other people’s voices and we can actually tell if a person is smiling, even if we can’t see them.

A simple smile can lend you a warm and open tonality, making the other person consider you friendly and trustworthy, which are two basic traits that any recruiter is looking for in a potential employee.

6. Dress to impress


Even though you’re having the interview in the comfort of your own home, it doesn’t mean you get to wear PJs or stay in your underpants. And that’s not because the recruiter might suddenly want to FaceTime (although you never know), but because dressing professionally puts you in the right mental attitude and helps bring out that professional side of you that is much needed in situations like these.

7. Take notes


Even if you won’t have much time at your disposal, jotting down a few ideas that the recruiter has laid out can help you tremendously with your next round of interviews, if you do succeed in moving ahead.

For example, if you ask them how they would characterize the ideal candidate for that position, it would be helpful to write down what they are saying and then use that answer the next time you meet them, to show you’ve been paying attention.

8. Have a confident posture


Having a confident posture while talking to someone can have a tremendous impact on the message you are conveying and how you are being portrayed. Maintaining your body in an upright position during an interview can help you be more self-assured, which will ultimately have a positive impact on your words and your tone.

9. Bring your A-game


While they might not seem so, phone interviews are actually much harder than regular ones.  During a face-to-face interview, a candidate has the opportunity to shake hands with the recruiter and smile at them, which automatically establishes a small fragment of connection between them.

The way we dress and the way we use our body language can help us score major points with an interviewer, showing how professional and likeable we are. Since we don’t get to exhibit all these things over the phone, this makes it all the more difficult to create a lasting impression.

This is why candidates will have to compensate and make themselves memorable through other techniques. Storytelling, for example, is one of the best ways to connect with a stranger and offer them a glimpse of your personality.

If the interviewer asks you to tell him a few words about yourself or describe the most rewarding experience of your life, don’t just read out your resume (which they are probably already familiar with). Instead, try to recount a story that was relevant for your professional success and that turned you into the person you are today.

This will help the recruiter get to know the real you (the one that is not on a piece of paper) and maybe even relate to your story, if they have gone through a similar experience.

10. Be present


Last but certainly not least, you will need to be fully present and engaged during a phone interview. It’s pretty common for our thoughts to wander, even in the middle of an important conversation, but do make an effort to remain focused and present, as this will help you come up with suitable answers for whatever questions may come up.


Amanda is a freelance writer and a partner at Job Application Center. She is passionate about helping people transition into meaningful careers and reach their full potential.

Felix T. Web

I founded ResumeOK in 2011 to help people increase their chances of getting a better job. I am a career expert that has reviewed and written thousands of resumes. During my career, I found patterns that make a resume successful. Together with our team, we are sharing insights and knowledge in our resume examples and career articles. Do you have a question or need help? Just contact us here.

Last Updated on May 19, 2022 by Felix T. Web