Phone interview Tips / Guidelines

Be ready. Take a phone interview as seriously as an in-person interview

  • When your interview is first scheduled, make sure you set aside time before the interview to prepare for it.
  • Prepare all of the materials you will need for the interview and be at the location of the call at least five minutes early. The interviewer can call early; in fact, some hiring agents use this as a tactic to test candidates.
  • Have a printed copy of your resume and/or notes available for quick reference.
  • Like all good interviews, it’s not just about answering questions, but asking the right ones as well.
  • The right questions not only help you get information you might need to make an informed decision regarding the job, but it also helps confirm your qualifications as the ideal candidate for the position.
  • Ask about the different aspects of the job and express genuine interest and excitement in the opportunity.
  • Prepare your own cheat sheet
    • Type up a bullet list of items you want to cover during the conversation. As each one gets satisfied, cross it off the list. Printouts are necessary in case your internet access fails.
    • Be prepared for a conversation about your background and skills.
    • Have a short list of your accomplishments available to review.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for note taking.
  • Don’t smoke, chew gum, eat or drink.

Research before the interview.

  • It’s always helpful to know a bit about who you’re talking to, from both a professional and a business standpoint.
  • Double check the job description you’re interviewing for.
  • Do your homework on the company. See how they’re doing and what they’re doing.
  • It’s important to take time to review the typical phone interview questions you’ll be asked and to prepare answers.

Eliminate distractions.

  • Focus and cut out all distractions
  • Ensure there are no children, pets or other noises in the room that could cause background noise or distraction. Turn off the TV.
  • Find a good spot to sit down and have all your prep materials nearby for easy access.
  • If a major distraction occurs during the phone interview, mention it. Your honesty will likely be appreciated.

Communicate clearly.

  • Speak into the mouthpiece. While this sounds logical, it can be forgotten if you are checking a document at the same time.
  • Slow down. Speak slowly and enunciate clearly. It’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment to collect your thoughts. Concentrate on pronouncing words crisply and clearly at a rate about 25% slower than normal.
  • Be thoughtful. Be thorough. Be concise.
  • Use jargon and acronyms with discretion. Some individuals may respond well to your knowledge of industry terms, while others may find it puzzling
  • Sometimes people ask questions but then continue to talk rather than waiting for you to answer. Give the interviewer a second or two after each question before you start so you don’t both end up talking at once.
    • As you’re pausing, it gives you a chance to really think about what you’re going to say.
  • Don’t forget to breathe during those questions!

Enthusiasm, tone and inflection

  • Use a warm tone of voice.  A smile cannot be seen but it does change the interest and enthusiasm of the conversation.  Enthusiasm is contagious.
  • When speaking on the phone, your voice actually loses about half of its energy during transmission. Make sure your enthusiasm gets across by overcompensating.
    • Increase your inflection. It is usually necessary to increase your normal voice inflection – what you use in normal, face-to-face, conversations – by about 50%
  • Be positive. Have the courage of your convictions.
    • Don’t say: “possibly,” “maybe,” “I think that could be.”
    • Instead, say “yes,” “certainly,” “always,” “of course!”


  • Listening skills are as important as speaking skills.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer. Listen carefully to the interviewer and don’t start speaking until the interviewer finishes the question.
    • If you have something you want to say, jot it down on your note pad and mention it when it’s your turn to talk.
  • Talk, but don’t dominate the conversation. Let the interviewer guide the conversation.

Don’t talk about money.

  • Hold off on discussing salary until the end of the process.
  • The interviewer knows you might attempt to do this and may try to force the issue.
  • Use phrases like, “I’m negotiable,” “I’d rather discuss compensation in person,”

Convince me.

  • You must convince the interviewer that having you come into the office for a meeting will not waste their time.
  • Answers during the call should reiterate your experience, interest in the position, and desire to continue the conversation in person.
  • Once the interview is over.
    • Carefully review any notes you were able to take during the conversation.
    • Jot down what types of questions you were asked, how you responded, and any follow-up questions you may have if you have an opportunity for an in-person interview.

Thank You.

  • Say thanks… fast. Unlike a face-to-face interview, there’s no commute afterwards. Send a thank-you note an hour or two after the phone interview.
  • Close the loop and reiterate your interest in wanting to meet the interviewer in person. Don’t be bashful about making this request.