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Top Tips for Handling a Phone Interview

Woman on mobile sitting at table with coffee

Nicole Doughton CVs & Interviews, Job Searching

Phone interviews are a common method used by companies to screen potential candidates and select those who they wish to invite in for a face-to-face or video interview. They are an important part of the process and, if you wish to make the shortlist, you should be prepared to handle a phone interview professionally.

We have put together some of our top tips for phone interviews, to help you secure that all-important second interview.


Be prepared

You need to prepare for a phone interview in the same way you would a face-to-face interview. Phone interviews are often used as a way of screening candidates, before inviting a select few back for a second, face to face meeting. Many of the questions will be directed to find out more about you, what you can do, what you can offer the company and what you are expecting from the role.

It helps if you have this information in front of you, which is one advantage over a face-to-face interview. Have a copy of your CV so you can refer to it, and make bullet point notes for key questions that are likely to be asked.

Questions might include:

  • What do you know about our company?

  • Why are you leaving your current role?

  • What experience and/or qualifications do you have relevant to this role?

  • What are you looking for from your next career move?

  • What salary are you looking for?

You should also note down any questions you want to ask the interviewer during the phone call, so you can tick them off as they are answered. Print out a copy of the job description, an overview of the company, and have a pen and paper handy to take notes. Don’t neglect your clothing either just because your interviewer can’t see you. Wearing appropriate interview clothing can put you in the right frame of mind for being interviewed.


Practice makes perfect  

If you’re nervous about being interviewed over the phone, have a practice run with a friend or family member. Many people speak too fast when on the phone, so this is a good chance to see if the person on the other end of the line can understand you clearly.

If you can, record the conversation so you can listen back. This will help you to identify any areas where you can improve. Make sure you speak clearly and precisely, don’t mumble, and watch out for long pauses while you are thinking. The interviewer won’t be able to tell when you are finished.

You can also test your equipment. If you’re going to be taking the call on a mobile, find the room with the strongest reception and check the volume. A landline will have a better call quality, if available. You may also be asked to take the call on your computer via an internet calling service.   


Check the details

Find out whatever you can about the format of the call in advance. Make sure you know when the call is taking place and that you can be undisturbed for the duration. Don’t be afraid to ask for a different time slot if it doesn’t suit you. It’s better for you to be able to take the call when you are ready and not rushed.

You should also check whether it’s a voice call or a video call. If it’s a video call, you will need to be sure your camera works and pay attention to your interview clothing. Ensure you maintain eye contact and keep the background uncluttered. You may still want to have notes to hand, but try not to refer to them too often.   


During the call

When the call comes in, take a deep breath and answer with your name so they know they have reached the right person. Confirm the name of the interviewer and refer to them by their formal title throughout the interview, unless they say otherwise.

Just because you are on the phone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t smile. It comes across in the way you are speaking and projects a positive attitude and enthusiasm. Sit up straight, or even stand up, as this can make you feel more confident and energised. It also helps you to stay focused.

Listen carefully to the questions you are being asked; it is harder to focus on the phone so you do need to make an effort. If you mishear or you are unsure, ask the interviewer to repeat the question so you can give an appropriate answer. Try not to interrupt the caller and make sure they have finished before replying.

When you answer a question, pause briefly to collect your thoughts. Give a short but concise answer to the question. You don’t want to spend too long on one topic, but you do want to make sure you cover all of the key points. You may want to have a glass of water close by in case your mouth dries up, as this can make it harder to speak clearly.

Part of the Spectrum IT candidate experience is giving you tips and advice at every stage of your journey. Find out more about what we can do for you on our Candidates page