How to ace a telephone interview

Published on: Aug 8, 2013

You may be prepared for an in-person job interview, but how equipped are you for one conducted over the phone?

How can you make a positive impression during a telephone interview? Following are some tips:

1. Sound like a pro. When your CV is circulating, keep in mind that each person who calls you could be a hiring manager. Save the humorous answering machine messages for once you’ve found a job and avoid answering calls using a speaker phone. If you do receive a message from a prospective employer, return it promptly.

2. Give the interviewer your undivided attention. Arrange the interview at a quiet time, when you can sit at a desk with your notes in front of you. Optimally, there should be no other person present while you’re talking with a prospective employer. If another call comes in during the interview, don’t answer it. If you’re using a cell phone for the interview, try to make certain the signal remains strong throughout the conversation.

3. Do your homework. Prepare for a telephone interview just as diligently as you would for an in-person meeting. Research the company and anticipate the types of questions you might be asked. The initial discussion probably won’t be too detailed, but be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work history?
  • What interests you about this job?
  • What skills can you bring to this position?
  • Can you tell me about your current job?
  • What sort of work environment brings out your best performance?

4. Before the telephone interview, write down the key points you want to convey as well as any questions you would like to ask. During the discussion, have a copy of your CV and a pen and paper handy so you can take notes on the position.

5. Don’t say too much. There may be an awkward silence after you’ve answered a question while the interviewer takes notes on the conversation. Don’t keep talking just to fill these pauses — you may end up saying something you regret. Instead, wait patiently for him or her to continue.

6. Pay attention to inflection. The tone and inflection of your voice play just as big a role as what you’re saying when it comes to the impression you make during a telephone interview. Smile as you speak — it will be reflected in your voice. Also, try to answer questions in complete sentences rather than simply providing “yes” or “no” responses, which can make you sound disinterested or unfriendly.

7. Listen carefully. Pay close attention to what your interviewer says about the position and the company, and jot down any key points. This will help you prepare for an in-person interview if you’re selected for one.

8. End on a high note. Be sure to thank the interviewer for his or her time. If he or she doesn’t suggest an in-person interview, you may ask about how the company plans to proceed — for example: “I’ve really enjoyed talking with you and learning more about the firm. Can you tell me what the next steps will be in the hiring process?”

A telephone screening helps companies narrow the field of possible candidates for a position. By preparing well for these conversations, you increase your chances of being asked for an in-person interview and landing a new job!

Author: Robert Half