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Tips for a Successful Telephone Interview

Updated on February 4, 2011
Interviews on the phone are becoming a popular trend.
Interviews on the phone are becoming a popular trend.

In today’s economy, many people are looking for every opportunity to land a job interview. Sometimes, employers just don’t have the time to physically see job applicants, so they may resort to an interview on the phone. An interview on the phone can be very challenging simply because you have no visual cues to interact with from the interviewer. However, there are some advantages to a phone interview over the traditional job interview, such as using notes, moving around or talking with your hands!

When you have applied for a job and anticipate hearing from an employer about an interview, or if you expect a call from a specific employer for any reason, consider the following tips in preparation for that call.

Preparation Tips

  • Make sure your voice-mail system is courteous and professional. It may be an employer’s first impression of you.
  • Inform everyone who may answer the phone that employment calls may be coming in. If you feel your roommates or family members are unreliable, consider giving only your cell phone number or use a personal messaging service.
  • When leaving a message on a prospective employer’s voice-mail, always leave your first and last name, phone number and the best time to call you back.
  • If an employer schedules a specific time to call you, make sure you are available and have a quiet place to talk.
  • Keep copies of your resume and cover letter close to your phone, as well as paper and pen for taking notes.
  • Create a file on every organization that you have contacted about a job. You can refer to the file during the telephone interview and bring up any important points you would like to discuss with the employer.

Getting the Call

  • If a call should surprise you, ask the employer to hold for a moment and compose yourself, but don’t take too long! 20 to 30 seconds would be pushing the limit. If the timing is extremely bad for you, ask if you can return the call. Let the employer know the exact time that you will call, or arrange an appropriate time convenient to both of you and be prompt.
  • Never put an employer on hold while you answer “call-waiting” or another incoming call.
  • Be aware that the interview may be conducted more than one person. If they fail to introduce themselves, ask if they would mind doing so. Write down their names and titles, and don’t be afraid to ask who is asking a specific question if you don’t know.
  • Voice is important. Be sure to convey energy and enthusiasm. Although the employer can’t see you smile, it will help you feel more energized and confident.
  • Listen carefully to each question asked. Envision the employer sitting across from you and answer as if they are present.
  • Speak directly into the phone. Keep the mouthpiece about one inch from your mouth. Do not eat, chew gum or smoke while on the phone. The sound is amplified and can be quite distracting. And don’t use the speakerphone, even if the employer does!

If you follow these simple guidelines, an interview on the phone can actually be less nerve-wracking than a traditional interview. Just remember to be courteous, professional and energetic and you will be on your way to landing that job!


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