20 tips for nailing your phone interview

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8:18 p.m.

Q: Telephone interviews seem to be more prevalent now than in any of my previous job searches. Any tips on what works?

A: It used to be that phone interviews were short and used mostly as a brief screening before scheduling a regular interview. So, you could almost “wing” them.

That’s changed. In order to reduce costs and time invested in applicants, companies are now using longer and more in-depth telephone interviews before inviting candidates to a face-to-face interview.

This makes sense and saves everybody time. But it means a phone interview could now carry as much weight as that first regular interview used to. Logically, this means you must prepare for the former with the same care as you would for the latter.

Here’s a round-up of my favorite tips, most of which apply to any type of interview.


Research the job opening and the company

Anticipate and practice your answers

Be ready five minutes early

Take deep breaths if you’re nervous

Wear business clothes (details are important, no pajamas!)

Research the interviewer (Google, Facebook, Linked-in, company website)

Picture the interviewer during the call (it helps)

Keep your resume handy

Make sure you have a pen and paper ready for notes


Choose a quiet location (no dogs, kids or interruptions)

Preferably use a land line to lessen your risk of dropped calls or loss of signal

Disable call waiting and mute your computer, alarms and fax machines

Don’t smoke, chew gum or eat

Stay formal, use Mr. or Ms. when addressing the interviewer and use first names only if asked

Speak clearly, with a smile (it comes through) and slowly (we speak faster when we’re nervous)

Avoid “er” and “umm” as space fillers (this habit is especially noticeable over the phone)

Prepare a 20-second closing statement, pitching why you should get an interview in person

Don’t talk about money unless asked. “It’s negotiable” is always safe.

Ask about the next steps and what the expected timeline is


Send a thank-you email the same day. Reiterate your strengths or highlight something you forgot.

Remember to keep your eyes on the prize: The object of a telephone interview is to get a face-to-face interview — where you’ll do it over again, in person.

Eva Del Rio is a human resources consultant and business owner. Send questions to or find her on Facebook.

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