Tips for a Successful Phone Interview

professionally dressed man in phone interview

The initial phone interview is arguably the most critical step in the selection process.  It is a good method for hiring managers to become personally acquainted with you and to ensure you’re a good fit for their organization.  In this fast-paced environment, phone interviews are becoming a common screening method used in the initial phase of the hiring process.

Dress for Success
The way a person dresses says a great deal about his or her attitude.  Although you and your interviewer may not be able to see each other during a phone interview, your appearance will still be interpreted. Your ability to project a professional appearance will be just as important during the phone interview as in a face-to-face meeting.  Therefore, you should always dress in professional apparel even for a phone interview.  Clearly, this is a mental concept, but it will support your attitude.  Your seriousness about the opportunity will be reflected in the way you dress and subsequently communicated by your professional tone.

Since your interviewer can’t actually see you during a phone interview, you won’t be able to visibly highlight your discussions with physical gestures and expressions. This means that you must be confident in projecting your character and personality through your tone, pace, and words to make an impression on the hiring manager.

Solitary Confinement
Find a quiet, secluded room where you will be separated from background noise from things such as TV, radio, pets, or children.  Be sure that everyone in the house knows you are taking an important phone call so that you are not disturbed. You may want to use your cell phone to avoid interruptions, but if you’re using the house phone, make sure that no one picks up an extension in another room until after the interview is complete.


  1. Prepare 15 minutes before the phone interview.
  2. Have a note pad, pen, your resume, and any other pertinent documentation in front of you.
  3. Research the company. Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the company, key players (executives, management team), products, and services. Conduct a search on the Internet for press releases on the company and executive team. Print, read, and highlight company information to demonstrate your knowledge of the company, its mission, products, service offerings, and years in business. This way, you can refer to any pertinent corporate information during the interview and answer any questions that may come up.
  4. Print the job description or pull it up on your computer. Keep it in front of you for referencing key duties and required qualifications.
  5. Review your resume and catalog your skills and accomplishments. Have a list of your soft and technical skill sets with you. Differentiate yourself by highlighting your quantitative and qualitative accomplishments for past employers. Be prepared to share the contributions you can make to the company.
  6. Rehearse. Practice your answers. Role play with your spouse, friend, or recruiter to evaluate your answers to general interview questions.
  7. Don’t ask questions about compensation or benefits. Avoid asking questions regarding compensation, benefits, or bonus incentives in the initial interview. Doing so will make you come across as being self-centered instead of company-centered.
  8. Spell out the name of the person who will conduct the phone interview.  Say the name out loud until you are comfortable with it and are sure you are pronouncing it correctly.
  9. Prepare a list of 3 to 5 company- or position-related questions (see samples in #6 below) that you intend to ask during the phone interview.  Asking intelligent and relevant questions demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm about the opportunity and organization. It also sets you up to relate your experience and expertise to the needs of the position and organization.
  10. Breathe! Take a few minutes before your scheduled phone call to gather your thoughts and get in the right frame of mind.


Here are a few steps to follow during the phone interview:

  1. Greet the interviewer with the same enthusiasm that you would demonstrate face to face. This initial impression should set a positive tone that will carry through the rest of the interview.
  2. Be sure to speak clearly into the phone and maintain a professional posture. Act as if you are speaking to the hiring manager in person.
  3. Mirror the pace and tone of the interviewer.
  4. Maintain a positive, upbeat tone throughout the interview. (Smiling while you talk, although you can’t be seen, accomplishes this!)
  5. Give clear and well-thought-out answers to all questions, but be careful not to talk too much. It is okay to pause when preparing for an answer, but try not to take too much time.  Try to avoid any uncomfortable periods of silence.  Remember, the hiring manager has no way of watching your reaction to the question, so it’s impossible for him or her to see that you are formulating an answer.
  6. Conclude by asking smart questions that are related to the company or position that may give you a chance to share your experience and expertise as it relates to the company’s needs.  For example:
      • What are the top three to five key accomplishments that this position needs to achieve in the first 90 days to help the department/company?
      • What are the biggest challenges facing this position?
      • What type of employee thrives within your company?
      • How would you describe your corporate culture/environment?
      • What are the company goals for this year?
      • What type of growth are you experiencing?
      • To what do you attribute the growth and success of your company?
      • What attracted you to this company and how long have you been with the company?
      • What is the biggest challenge facing the company?
      • How does your company differentiate itself from other competitors?

7. Convey your interest in the position and joining the organization if it’s a good fit.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity and think I would be a valuable asset in helping you achieve your goals.What is the next step in the interview process?”

8. Email or hand-write the interviewer a well-thought-through thank-you letter.

Other helpful hints to make your phone interview go smoothly: 

  • Have a glass of water nearby so you can take a drink when your mouth gets dry.  (Just don’t sip audibly enough for the interviewer to hear you!)
  • Stay focused on the question(s) you are asked and make sure you provide specific examples.
  • Avoid interrupting the interviewer. Wait for a pause.
  • Do not take any medication just prior to the interview.
  • Do not chew gum or eat while you are on the phone.
  • Jot down the important questions that you are asked so you can check to see if you have answered them to the interviewer’s satisfaction.

 The objective of the phone interview is not to just to advance in the process, but to get to the offer stage. Undoubtedly, the phone interview will be your first opportunity to make a great impression. Applying these guidelines will help differentiate you from other candidates and give you an added advantage in being considered as the ideal candidate for the opportunity.

What’s next? Learn what NOT to ask your interviewer!

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