Skip to main content

Love them or hate them, phone interviews are a common first step in the interview process. Employers often use this tactic when there are too many qualified candidates to conduct formal interviews with everyone. Phone interviews serve as a way to get to know applicants while weeding out those that aren’t the right fit for the job or organization. Even though you’ll be meeting with your potential employer via a phone call, it’s still crucial to make a strong first impression to set the stage for a successful formal interview. With proper preparation before, during, and after your phone interview, you greatly raise your chances of reaching the next step and potentially earning your desired position.

How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

Before the Call

Research the company you are interviewing with. What are their values, goals, culture, and accomplishments? Employers expect the right candidate to take an interest and be familiar with these details. After all, you could be joining their team soon.

Once you feel confident about the company’s ins and outs, find out who will be conducting your phone interview. Will you be speaking with an HR recruiter, a hiring manager, or a supervisor? If you weren’t provided with the interviewer’s name, reach out to the contact to find out. You can either ask directly, or search the interviewer’s name on LinkedIn to see if they have their position listed. In general, recruiters try to get an understanding of who you are as an employee and your plans for the future, whereas supervisors, managers, and other leadership roles ask questions based on the position and tasks associated with the role.

After determining who the interviewer will be, think about the type of questions they may ask you. Common phone interview questions include:
What should we know about you?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why did you leave/why are you considering leaving your current job?
What motivates you?
Why do you want to join our team?
What is your salary requirement?
Then, allot some time with friends, family, or other trusted associates to run a mock interview with you. Provide them with the questions you’re expecting to hear and ask them to throw in some interview questions of their own for an authentic experience.

The Day Of

On the day of your phone interview, you’ll need a place to have that call that is quiet and free from any distractions. This could be anywhere from your home to a rented room at your local library. Try to find a room or space where you can sit up straight, like an office with a desk or kitchen table. Make sure that your phone is fully charged and that you are familiar with the number the interviewer will be calling from. It’s a good idea to have a professional voicemail on your phone in case you’re unable to answer their call the first time.

Even though the interview isn’t in person, you should still consider dressing professionally. Wear what you would if you were going to the interview in person. This will help you maintain a professional tone and demeanor throughout the call. You’ll also want to keep a list of questions, your resume, and your portfolio (if applicable) nearby so you can reference them as needed. We also recommend having a cheat sheet with the company information you researched before and some paper for notes at the ready.

During the Interview

Your main objectives during the phone interview will be to maintain focus and get an authentic portrayal of yourself and your salary expectations across. That starts with a professional yet friendly tone during your introduction. Introduce yourself as if you were meeting the interviewer in person and carry that tone throughout the call.

Maintain active listening throughout the call. Asking perceptive questions and adding insightful comments shows a recruiter that you’re serious about this opportunity. When answering questions, try to speak clearly and avoid filler words like “um,” “like,” or “uh.” Don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to collect your thoughts before answering if you need to. Remember, recruiters want to get a sense of who you are, so you should try to sound as authentic as you can. Showing both personality and professionalism is an advantage.

After the Interview

At the end of the interview, make sure to ask about the next steps in the process if the recruiter hasn’t already brought them up. This reinforces your interest in the position and eagerness to get to the next stage. Sometime in the next 24 hours, email the caller to thank them for taking their time for the call. This is the time to fill in any gaps that you think were missed in the interview, so use this as a last-chance opportunity to set yourself apart. If you haven’t heard anything back in a week or two, follow up with an email to see where you stand and if there’s anything else the employer needs to know from you.