How to Pass a Telephone Interview

Sally Painter
Woman on phone giving thumbs up
expert checked

Learn how to pass a telephone interview and move on to the next step in the interview process.If you handle yourself well when being interviewed via telephone, you may be asked to advance to the next stage in the interviewing process, or even be offered a job.

How to Prepare

There are a few preparations you need to make for your phone interview. It's normal to be nervous during interviews, especially phone interviews where you're at the disadvantage of not being face to face with the recruiter. During a phone interview, you're blind to many of the messages you'd receive through body language in a face to face meeting. Taking time to prepare for your interview can help compensate for this disadvantage and improve the quality of your appointment.

  • Resume: Print out a copy of your resume so you can refer to it during the interview. You might be asked about dates of employment or something else that is on your resume. The document can serve as a tool for answering questions.
  • Pens and Pad: It seems so simplistic an item to mention, but having several pens and a notepad available for taking down notes during the interview is a key to success. You don't want to have to ask the interviewer to hold while you find something to write with.
  • Interruptions: No interruptions is a point that needs to be emphasized. You want this to be a professional event, so choose a room in your home, or somewhere else, where there is no background noise and no possible interruptions by a baby crying or small children. Pets should not be barking or mewing in the background. You don't want an open window carrying outside sounds into the room. Turn off other phone ringers, alarms, and anything else that might be an interruption or distraction. Be sure your family knows you're in an interview and request music and televisions be placed on earphone sets or muted. Don't hold your phone call in a room that has an echo or makes you sound as though you're in a well.
  • At Work: If you've elected to conduct your phone interview in your office, then alert the recruiter ahead of time about your work situation. Do you have an office where you can close the door or are you in a cubicle? Work isn't the best place to attempt a phone interview for a new job. You may be overheard, interrupted or distracted. Do your best to have the conversation offsite. Some people use their lunch time. You can sit in your car in a shopping center parking lot, parking deck, recreational park, or other location. This is preferable over being in your work environment.
  • Water and other supplies: Have a bottle of water nearby in case your throat gets dry. Get rid of chewing gum or any kind of hard candy before beginning your interview.
  • Comfort: Are you sitting in a comfortable chair? If you're in a home office and sitting in your desk chair, make sure the chair doesn't squeak. Many times you may not be aware of this since you're accustomed to your home workspace, so it's best to assess this kind of possible issue prior to your interview. You want to be comfortable so you aren't distracted during your interview. This will allow you to give the recruiter your undivided attention during the entire phone call.
  • Telephone: Avoid using a speaker phone unless you have a disability that warrants using one. If using a headset, test the sound quality with a friend. If using a battery operated cell phone or handset, charge it the night before. Have the charger set up so you can plug it directly into your phone should your call last longer than expected and your battery charge becomes low.
  • Phone Reception: Make sure you can get good reception wherever you choose to hold the conversation. If you're using a cell phone that doesn't get good reception inside your home or office, then use a land line or relocate to a place where you can get good reception.
  • Checklist: Some people find it helpful to create a checklist before the interview date to ensure they haven't neglected or forgotten anything.
  • Written Preparations: One of the biggest advantages that a phone interview has over an in-person one is all of notes and prompts you can have to assist you behind the scenes. Be sure to include a job description printout and have it in front of you for easy reference. Spend some time before the interview to make notes and list questions you may have for the recruiter. If using your computer in conjunction with the interview, print any documents you many need in advance in case there is an unexpected power outage or issue with your computer.

Phone Etiquette

Most people know how to talk on a phone, but not everyone has been trained in good phone etiquette. It always helps to review some simple common courtesies related to phone etiquette that aren't always included in job interview tips.

  • Don't interrupt the recruiter. It's easy to get into a conversation and jump ahead of the other person, especially during a phone call. If you have an idea or question while the recruiter is talking, jot it down on your pad and wait your turn.
  • Don't breath into the mouthpiece. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many people are mouth breathers and don't even realize they are breathing into the person's ear during a phone conversation.
  • Don't talk outside. Again, this seems like a very common-sense courtesy, but surprisingly, many people believe it's all right to hold a business call outside. The background noise of birds, traffic and even wind can be very distracting and disruptive during a phone call.
  • Don't cough, clear your throat, sneeze, or smack your lips. Simply cover the mouthpiece with your hand or mute your phone.
  • Don't end the call. Just as during an in-person interview, the recruiter is the one who should end the call.

Final How to Pass a Telephone Interview Tip

The last tip on how to pass a telephone interview after following all of these steps is to be yourself and put your best professional foot forward. Speak clearly and answer all of the recruiter's questions to the best of your ability and you can have a very successful phone interview.

How to Pass a Telephone Interview