Telephone interviews can be one of the most uncomfortable parts of the job-seeking process.  Many employers use them regularly in their hiring process as a way to reduce costs and save time.  Most often they are used to disqualify candidates early in the process before further time has been invested by all parties.

There are usually 2 types of phone interviews:

The “screening call”.  Quite often the HR department needs to learn additional information about candidates before forwarding their application to the Hiring Authority. Although the initial contact can be quite unassuming, HR is most likely trying to “short-list” a stack of potentials for the position.

The “committee” telephone interview. Sometimes several hiring authorities or department staff will get together on the interviewing process so that they can share their conclusions afterward. This rarely happens when the company is still early in the process.  Rather, it usually occurs when there are too many qualified candidates for face-to-face interviews.

Depending on the nature of the person conducting the telephone interview, these calls can be either quite pleasant or extremely uncomfortable.  In either case, there are certainly several ways to best prepare yourself for a successful call:

    1. The person on the other end of the phone may be just as uncomfortable as you. Concentrate less on your feelings and more on how to make the other person feel at ease.


    1. Smile over the phone. Believe it or not, smiling while you talk will help you sound more friendly and open.
    2. You are not judged by the same criteria used at an in-person interview. For example, eye contact can be an excellent barometer when meeting face to face.  However, on the telephone, you’ll be judged by a more subtle set of factors such as the sound of your voice, your tone, your level of friendliness, and enthusiasm.
    3. Speak succinctly about your past experience and accomplishments. Many professionals launch into long, drawn-out answers to telephone interview questions.  Remember, you do not have your interviewer’s eye contact or other body language cues to monitor.  Clear, short responses will keep the person on the other side of the line engaged (and not put them to sleep)!
    4. Utilize “dead air” during a conversation; don’t fear it. Have a list of prepared questions about the company or position when caught in one of those spots. Although good communication is theoretically up to both of you, dead air is typically your responsibility to fill.
    5. Focus on your listening skills. You’ll find that your nerves will sometimes make this very difficult.  Simply close off all thoughts about whatever is going on around you and concentrate on the words and voice of the interviewer.  Take notes while you listen, if it helps you focus.


    1. Situate yourself properly before the call.  Because so much of your success in this situation is determined by your comfort in the surroundings, plan the interview for a time when you can speak privately, comfortably, and without distraction. Or, if the caller takes you by surprise, ask for five minutes to get organized, get their phone number and call them back.


  1. Don’t talk about issues related to compensation, company benefits, or any negative issues with your current employer. This is solid advice for any first-interview situation.  This initial touchpoint is to make enough of a connection to get to the in-person interview phase.

Do you have any tried and tested tips for phone interviews?

Need help preparing for your next Skype Interview?  Check out our Skype Interview Tips.