Winning the phone interview

Phone interviews are a common way to prescreen candidates for face-to-face interviews.

With so much at stake, it’s important to make a good impression. In fact, every time you deal with a potential employer or a recruitment consultant over the phone, consider you are being interviewed.

Remember, the recruitment consultant is the gate keeper you have to get by if you are to be considered by the employer. Also practice your best phone manners when dealing with reception staff and personal assistants.

14 tips for acing your phone interview

1. Prepare for the interview in the same way you would a face-to-face interview. Know your resume inside out and prepare answers for common questions like, “what is your greatest weakness/strength?” For tips on answering the “weakness/strength” question go to the Job hunting advice section of

2. Rehearse and rehearse again. This is the best technique for assessing how well you know your career history, calming nerves, untwisting tongues and building confidence. Ideally, rehearse with someone from the same industry but if that’s not possible, a friend or family member would be fine. You’ll need to provide the questions as you know your role and industry. Do a couple of rehearsals in person and a couple using a phone. Your rehearsal partner will tell you if you are stumbling over words or sounding nervous.

3. On the day, make sure you have a quiet place to do the interview. Warn family members not to interrupt and keep animals out of the room. Make sure nothing is on – radio or mobile phone. If you have “call waiting”, see if you can have it disabled.

4. Make sure you get the interviewer’s name right and then use it several times.

5. Don’t answer with just a “yes” and “no” but do keep your answers concise. Smiling while talking will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. Stand and pace if it will help you breath and project your voice.

6. Dress the part so you feel professional – and sound it too.

7. Tap notes in big writing to the walls. I know a senior executive who did this and it worked. Also, stick your resume up where you can see it.

8. Remember that the interviewer cannot see you. If you get a question you want to think about, don’t panic but state that. For example, “That’s a good question. I’m going to take a moment so I can provide you with an accurate answer.”

9. Keep a pen and paper handy to take notes that will help you ask good questions about the employer and role.

10. Obviously you will not smoke, chew gum or eat during the interview but it’s a good idea to have water on hand. If you get a dry mouth, it’s fine to say: “Excuse me while a take a sip of water”.

11. Don’t interrupt the interviewer.

12. Ask questions that show your interest in the company rather than yourself. Asking about if the team you would be joining is currently tackling any big projects would be better than “how much would I earn?”

13. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for his or her time and say you hope to meet them in person. Ask about the next steps in the recruitment process including the timeline.

14. Follow up with a thank you note or email.

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