What To Expect During A Phone Interview & 10 Ways To Prepare

What To Expect During A Phone Interview & 10 Ways To Prepare

October 15, 2018

Everyone is strapped for time these days, and recruiters are no exception. Especially if a role receives a lot of applicants, the first-round interview is likely to be a phone interview. It may seem like a disadvantage to not be face to face, but you can make the phone interview work for you. These tips will help you ace the phone interview and land that live interview you were hoping for.

Know Your Audience

It’s likely that you’re talking to a recruitment professional for this first phone interview. You can call it a “screening call,” during which the recruiter will determine a shortlist of candidates. It will probably consist of general aptitude and behavioral questions. Don’t throw out too much jargon or technical speak. If you pass the test, then you’ll get to meet with the hiring manager. Be honest, engaging and articulate.

Gauge The Cadence

One of the hardest parts about a phone interview is that you can’t see the interviewer’s visual cues. This means you might not see if they are interested in what you’re saying and nodding, therefore encouraging you to continue, or if they’re looking at their notes and wanting to move on to the next question. Focus on answering the question as your top priority, in other words, don’t go into a 10-minute-long background before getting to the point. But one-word answers are not acceptable either. Instead of thinking about the interview as a question-and-answer, try to hold a conversation with the interviewer.

Will You Be On Video?

Video interviewing is no longer a niche tool. It’s commonly used as a compromise between an in-office interview and a phone screen. Be sure you know if you’re going to be on video (even if it’s prerecorded questions) because this means a whole new set of considerations, like attire, setting, lighting, technology, equipment and many more.

Conduct Research

Just because the interview is over the phone, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare. Take it just as seriously as if you were going into the office for a face-to-face interview. Do your research on the interviewer, the company, the role and the industry. This will likely be the precursor to a face-to-face, so make a good impression. Show you know your stuff.

Keep Notes

One of the best parts about a phone interview is that the interviewer can’t see what you’re doing. (No, this does not mean you should multitask!) If you took notes, like the skills you wanted to highlight or questions you have about the role, you can reference them without the interviewer knowing. You can also jot down notes that may help you prepare for face-to-face interviews. Maybe they mention the hiring manager’s name or talks about a specific product they’re developing – scribble it down for later use.

Sound Excited

When an interviewer is in front of you, there are many nonverbal cues that show you’re engaged. It can be a little harder over the phone. Be mindful of the pitch of your voice; sound excited but natural (try smiling while talking). Avoid sound effects, like oohs, ahhs and umms.

Clarify Logistics

Be sure you understand if the interviewer is calling you, and verify they have the right number (a landline is ideal, especially if your cell service can be spotty). If you’re calling the interviewer, call at the exact time that was specified (read: 1 p.m., not 1:02 p.m.) and confirm the number ahead of time.

Remove Distractions

Don’t think you can multitask while you’re on a phone interview. If you can, turn your phone on do not disturb while you’re on the line – that way you won’t get any call waiting beeps or text notifications. Find a comfortable, quiet spot in your home (not in a noisy coffeehouse) in which you get good cell reception. It should just be you, your phone and your notes.


You’ll want to practice with someone who will give you honest feedback and help you improve your chances of landing the job. With the phone interview, practice with someone who’s not face-to-face. This will probably be easier to coordinate because you don’t have to be in the same place at the same time. Try a mentor, a past classmate or professor or a trusted colleague.

Send A Thank-You Note

Just as if you went into the office, a thank-you note is a must. The interviewer still took precious time out of his/her day to speak with you. Let him or her know how much you appreciate his/her consideration and see if you can confirm next steps.


Read Next: What To Expect In A 2nd Round Interview & 7 Ways To Prepare


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