Telephone interviews: 10 top tips

A telephone job interview saves time for everyone, but there are pitfalls for the interviewee, so be prepared and get an edge on the other applicants.

Isn’t a telephone interview just the same as a normal interview, accept I can do it my pyjamas? No, it’s a whole different ballgame and there are ten things to watch out for:

  1. Prepare like a full interview
    Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is not as important or formal as a normal interview. Prepare in advance as normal, because until you are on that call you will not know for sure. It may be just a pre-interview chat, or the interviewer maybe scoring your every answer. Don’t take the chance. You can always use the prep work for the next stage when you get through.
  2. Think about your tone
    Be calm, confident and considered. Telephone interviews are all about establishing a rapport so you get called in for the next interview.
  3. Detailed answers are great, but don’t ramble on
    Remember you will not get the same visual cues from your interviewer on the phone. If they have drifted off and are reading email while you explain that great project you did 10 years ago, you’ve lost them. Try and keep answers to around 30 seconds when giving examples.
  4. Don’t dominate the call or burst eardrums
    Are you a lively, bubbly interviewee who lights up a room and charms the crowd into giving you the job? Well, you mustn’t lose that, no way, but it’s much easier to overdo it on the phone, so keep the volume in the middle somewhere and NEVER take over the call. Short shots of personality will do the job great and keep the interviewer happy too.
  5. The Sound of Silence
    Short contemplative pauses look great in normal interviews. They make you look thoughtful and engaged. On a telephone interview a long silences are awkward (Has he gone??) so people tend to fill the silence with umms and ahhs and waffle. The best way to stop this is prepare all your examples and stories in advance, and if you do need to think then don’t be afraid to say, “let me think” or similar while you compose your thoughts.
  6. Plan your space
    Having a quiet and private space to make the call is so important. If you are not comfortable in the space, or a worried that the dog might start barking at any given moment then you will underperform. Plan ahead and make sure you make the right space. Think of a back-up space too, in case a mobile roller disco turn up outside your nice quiet room.
  7. Set the mood
    Yes, you could this interview in bed, or lying on the sofa with the TV on mute, but you will not be on your game. Sit at a table with your notes in front of you, away from other distractions. You don’t have to wear a business suit, but don’t wear a swimsuit either.
  8. The Warm-up
    For a normal job interview you usually have the journey in, the coffee shop visit, to prepare and get in the right frame of mind.  Make sure you give yourself at least 10 mins before the call to get composed, prepare your notes and engage your brain in the task to come.
  9. You can’t see me!
    Ever wish you had all your post-it notes, crib cards, lucky plushies and glass of wine with you at an interview? Well now you can, there’s no excuse for forgetting that great project where you saved the world in 2014. Easy on the wine though. That’s for after the call.
  10. Charge your mobile!
    Even better, sit near a socket and bring along a charger too. You are sooo prepared.


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