Tips for Phone Interviews


For many, phone interviews are the first level of direct engagement with their target company.

There’s no one uniform approach, but very often it’s the job of the HR department to engage with you at this stage. This is to make sure you at least meet the minimum criteria for the role before moving you on in the process.

To improve your chances of success, here are some tips:

Do your homework

Make sure you have a clear idea sense of what the company does and what the role entails. To do that, at the very least you should be looking at the firm’s website to understand their qualities and values.

You should also thoroughly read and digest the job description to appreciate what skills, strengths and competencies are required.

The good thing about a phone interview is that you won’t have to try to memorise all of the information. Simply write everything down on sheets of paper and lay them out around you. Or write bullet points on post-it notes and stick them in front of you to act as prompts.

Prepare your environment and yourself

You don’t have to dress up for the occasion if the interviewer can’t see you, but you must make sure that the call can be taken in an environment that’s conducive to your engagement.

That could mean finding a quiet room to take the call, ensuring any aircon isn’t too noisy, making sure you won’t be disturbed by others, taking care that you have good reception, and checking to see that your mobile phone is sufficiently charged. It may also make sense to keep keys and coins out of your reach – playing with items may create background noise that can distract an interviewer.

If you get stressed before interviews, find ways to relax yourself. The good thing about a phone interview is that no one has to be around to see you do deep breathing, positive affirmations or power poses. Prepping your environment and yourself can help you feel more at ease on the call.

Prepare your answers

It’s worth going into all kinds of interviews with a broad selection of sample answers to respond to questions that could be posed.

Phone interviews often work along the lines of set scripts, where the interviewer is targeting certain experiences and competencies and is looking for you to address them. This approach provides consistency across all candidates being interviewed. In many ways it’s a bit of a box ticking exercise.

When you do respond, be crisp and concise, structuring your answers around the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) framework where you can. This makes it easier for interviewers to know what you have to offer – and tick that box. Again, you can write these out in advance.

At the same time, try to be as natural as possible in your delivery of the information. You don’t want it to sound as if you are simply reading the answers from a script (even if that is actually the case).

Also, watch the ‘errs’ and ‘umms’ in your responses – they’ll likely be more apparent in a phone call setting than they would be in person.

Apply standard interview etiquette

Just because the interviewer can’t see you, it doesn’t mean they won’t get a sense of what kind of person you are. In other words, try to sound passionate, smiley and interested. It’s still important how you present yourself and your voice will continue to project an image of you.

Remember to ask the kind of questions that show that you have done your homework. This also helps you establish a rapport. You can write the questions out and have them in front of you.

And even though you haven’t met the interviewer, it still pays to apply the standard approach of a follow up “Thank You” message.

Does it make a difference? Maybe yes, maybe no. The important thing is it won’t harm you and it’s worth keeping yourself at the forefront of the interviewer’s thoughts, particularly when you haven’t met them in person.

Godfrey Oyeniran

Career coach, financial coach, passionate about personal transformation.

3 min read

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