Nail the Interview

How to Ace your Telephone Interview

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Telephone Interviews have become very popular as the first step in an interview process. Unfortunately, telephone interviews are probably the toughest type of interviews. Without visual cues (from both the interviewer and the interviewee), it is very difficult to know when to pause for the next question and when you’ve nailed the answer. Telephone interviews require even more preparation than in-person interviews. One important advantage to telephone interviews is that you can (and should) refer to your notes during the interview (just be careful to pay attention and not pause for too long).

Where you are when you have your telephone interview is as important as how well you prepare. Ensure you are in a quiet location (no dogs barking or babies crying).

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Typically, the first telephone interview is the “screening” interview (more often than not, with someone from HR). With the right preparation, there is no reason why you can’t get past this interview. The main purpose is to ensure you have the right qualifications and that your work experience supports what is presented on your resume. Here are some tips.



Unlike an in-person interview, where you (hopefully) have the undivided attention of the interviewer, selecting when and where to have your telephone interview are as important as being prepared for the interview:

  • Make sure you have a “quiet” place to have your phone interview. This can be difficult, but having it outside (with street noise), in a crowded location, where you might be interrupted or at home (with kids &/or pets) are not the best choices but probably rule out most of your options. Find the best balance.
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  • Scout out your location a day or two in advance (at the same time of day) to ensure it will work out and to give yourself time to pick an alternative.

“You have a huge advantage with a telephone interview. You can have whatever documents you want/need right in front of you. Take the time to refresh your memory with the details of your resume. Focus on the experience that interested the hiring manager enough to give you an interview. Treat the entire process like a face to face interview but remember they have nothing to go on except the information you share with your interviewer, so make sure it’s up to scratch.” – 7 Tips for Successful Telephone Interviews

  • Speaking of alternatives, the best-laid plans can sometimes not work out. Have an alternative location in the event your first choice is suddenly not suitable or not available.
  • Time of day is also an important consideration. If there is any chance you might get stuck in the office and not get out on time, schedule the interview for the first thing in the morning (before you get to the office if possible).



There is no excuse for not being prepared for an interview, doubly so with a telephone interview. The usual preparation is required (see below), but keep notes and reference materials which can be leveraged during the interview:

  • Have your resume handy, as well as the job specifications/listing (if available).
  • Research those who will be interviewing you (linkedin is the best choice). You can also leverage LinkedIn to see if you have any connections who know the interviewer(s).
  • Any material you may have sent to the company or Recruiter should be on hand (cover letter, list of skills, references, etc.).
  • Company research – do it and have it handy.
  • Your list of questions – there is nothing worse than not having anything to ask the interviewer. Keep an extra-long list in the event the interviewer answers some of the questions before they are asked.
  • Their list of questions – Have a list of questions (with your answers) which might be asked.
  • Make a list of skills and experience which will convince the interviewer that you are the perfect candidate for the job.


The interview

Some things to remember during the interview:

  • Try not to answer questions with one-word answers – elaborate.
  • Remember your 30-second elevator speech, you might need it as an introduction.
  • Don’t go off on tangents, try to stay on topic and keep the interviewer focused on what you do best.
  • While a long pause is not good, give the interviewer time to ask the entire question before responding.
  • Try to avoid pauses on your side, if you need to think of an answer, now is the time your notes will come in handy – have them at your fingertips.
  • “The Close” – don’t forget to thank the interviewer for their time and don’t forget to express your interest in the

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