Telephone Interviews

Phone interviews are often used as a "first round" screening measure to determine who to invite for face-to-face interviews. However, there are circumstances in which a scheduled phone interview may be the actual interview.  Because it may not always be clear, it is important that you effectively prepare for the telephone interview.  As a starting point, understanding the structure and nuances of the phone interview will help prepare you.

Informal Phone Contacts

During your search process, employers might contact you at any time. Your chances of being hired are potentially impacted by any communication you have with prospective employers.

  • Tailor the greeting on your voicemail to reflect your professionalism.
  • Inform those who have access to your phone about your application process.
  • If you cannot answer the call in a professional manner, let your voicemail screen the call and return it when you are prepared.

Before the Telephone Interview

  • Preparation for the telephone interview is identical to preparing for a face-to-face interview. Start by researching the company and industry, reviewing your experiences and skills, and practicing your responses to potential questions.
  • When you arrange the phone interview, ask who will contact you and when the interview will take place, and remember to take into consideration time zone differences. Also, ask for the names and titles of others who will participate during your interview.
  • Take advantage of the fact that they can't see you by preparing materials that are easy to read and help to prompt key points, such as: company values, points/experiences you want to highlight, questions to ask, etc.
  • Finally, make arrangements to interview in a quiet space where you will not have interruptions. But also a location which has good phone reception.

During the Telephone Interview

  • Be ready 10–15 minutes before your interview start time. This includes dressing professionally, as it will help you to convey confidence and be more aware of the circumstances of the telephone call. As you await the call, review your application materials, résumé, and the job description.
  • When the phone rings, answer it in a professional manner. The interviewer will take the lead by introducing the individuals on the phone and their roles. If there are multiple interviewers on the call, it is helpful to make a list of each person's name and position. The interviewer will usually provide you with the structure of the interview and then start the information exchange. 
  • If your call-waiting signal beeps, do not answer the other call. In addition, avoid eating or drinking during the interview as it can distract the interviewers.
  • Lag time and silence between your response and the next questions is very common during a telephone interview. It is probably a sign of the interviewer(s) diligently taking notes.
  • At the conclusion of the interview, thank the interviewer(s) and reiterate your interest in the position. The interviewer(s) will likely discuss next steps.

After the Telephone Interview

Within 48 hours, send a thank-you note to each interviewer reiterating your interest in the position and thanking them for considering your application and candidacy.