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Acing the Phone Interview

A phone-screening interview is often the very first conversation a candidate will have with a potential employer. Typically these 15-30 minute phone calls are designed to help potential employers evaluate you as a candidate against an increasingly global pool.

Your goal is to convert this screening interview into an in-person interview or meeting. It is easy to take these interviews less seriously — but be diligent and remember to take them as seriously as an in-person interview. Preparation and a stellar phone interview may convince the interviewer that inviting you into the office will not be a waste anyone’s time. An effective screening interview turns the interviewer into an advocate for your candidacy.

Here are a few tips for you to keep in mind to ace this integral part of the hiring process

Make sure you take the call in a quiet place with clear reception.

Poor cell reception or background noise can reflect negatively on a candidate. You are already at a disadvantage because you cannot respond to an interviewer’s nonverbal cues. Critical to delivering a great impression is ensuring that your available channel of communication is as clear as possible. Take the call from a location where you have control over your environment. Consider doing a check-in call with a friend beforehand to make sure you have selected a good spot.

Dress up anyway.

Your voice reveals more about your state than you may realize. Even though your interviewer cannot see you, if you are dressed for the part, you may be more psychologically primed to be professional rather than casual. You do not want to sound like you are speaking to them in your pajamas (which you might be more prone to do if you are actually in your pajamas).


The tone of your words and their effect on the listener are affected by your facial expressions. Telemarketing companies are so convinced of the value of employees smiling on the phone that they place mirrors at their desks to remind them to smile. Smiles do communicate over the telephone!

Listen attentively.

Have you ever had that feeling that the person on the other line is probably zoning out and paying attention to something else and not you? Your phone interviewer has spoken to many candidates — don’t give them that impression.

Listen carefully to their opening pitch and tone. Many of these screening interviews last only for a few minutes and are designed to spot select bits of information about you or your experience. Being attentive, present, and discerning the intent of an interviewer’s line of questioning allows you to tactfully craft your responses. Also, since you can’t actually see the interviewer, make sure you wait until they are completely finished speaking before you begin to speak. Taking notes can ensure you are actively listening and don’t miss anything important (use paper since the sound of typing might be distracting).

Do your homework.

Remember that your preparation should include researching the employer and interviewer, practicing your pitch, and being prepared to ask for next steps in the hiring process. For any interview situation a candidate should do their homework and prepared.

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