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African-American man attending a phone interview

The Best Ways to Prepare for a Phone Interview

Posted On09/02/2019

ContributorKaila Prins

By Laura Bednar

The phone interview holds more weight in the process of landing a job than most potential employees think. The phone interview seems to have taken the place of the first in-person interview, at least as an introductory way to learn more about an applicant.

Aside from seeing if your skills on your resume really match the person on the other end of the line, a company uses a phone interview to narrow down a large list of candidates. This interaction can be your virtual foot in the door to earning a real face-to-face second interview.

51% of recruiters state that they will hold at least three interviews before companies make a job offer, meaning that speaking to someone on the phone is only the first step of the application process. To make it to the next phase, preparation for your phone interview is key.

Creating an Ideal Speaking Environment

When you are trying to listen and absorb what someone is saying on the phone, you will need a quiet area in which it is easy to focus on the conversation at hand. Be sure that there are no distractions in the background, such as other people or blaring televisions and electronics.

If possible, it is safer to use a landline because there is less of a chance that you will drop the call. If you are using a cell phone, ensure you are in an area that has strong service and have the device fully charged before you engage in the call. In some cases, it may be better for you to stand during the call to allow yourself to sound more confident and more enthusiastic than when sitting at a table or a desk. Find an area that is comfortable, but not so familiar that you lose a tone of professionalism.

Overcoming the Disadvantages of a Phone Interview

The major obstacle in partaking in a phone interview is that you cannot see the other person. Body language can generally give us an idea of how another person perceives us and what the comfort level is on both ends of the interview. Without any visuals you must rely solely on the interviewer’s tone to respond to their questions and comments appropriately.

Jack Kelly, a Senior Contributor for Forbes, says that “all the interviewer can rely upon is your voice, phone demeanor and delivery.”

The challenge comes in finding the right tone, between sounding natural and maintaining a sound of professionalism. The best way to meet in the middle is through audible practice. While you may have written down points you know you would like to include, reading them off a paper and speaking the syllables from memory have completely different sounds.

When you speak, do so clearly and slowly so that the interviewer does not have to ask you to repeat yourself. Keep in mind that you are speaking to a potential employer and not a friend about weekend plans, so your demeanor needs to change.

Above all, not having any visuals can lead you to lose focus on the conversation. This can result in an embarrassing situation where you must ask the interviewer to repeat themselves, which is one of the red flags they look for when conducting a phone interview. Thoroughly listen to what is being said and take notes to keep yourself engaged in the conversation.

Heard but Not Seen

A perk to interviewing through the phone is that you can have materials in front of you, such as a copy of your resume and research about the employer and the person with whom you are speaking. Some companies may schedule more than one phone interview with you and the calls may be with completely different people. Find out who you will be speaking with and try to find some background information on them from the company website.

Though you may not be speaking to the CEO, a recruiter who found you via LinkedIn can be your only connection to speaking with those who have higher positions. Do not assume that a new person you talk to has read your resume already or spoken with the person who interviewed you earlier. Address them by their title unless otherwise told and firm up the details of who will be calling whom and when.

There are several general rules that can help you to ace your phone interview and most of these tips can translate into all aspects of interviewing, but one rules holds true: dress the part. Even if the interviewer can’t see you, wearing a professional outfit will put you in the interviewing mindset and keep you from falling into the trap of taking the call less than seriously.

Key Follow-Ups After the Phone Interview

If you were taking quick notes during the call, chances are your writing may be a bit chaotic. Organize your thoughts and answers to the questions you asked as soon as you hang up while the conversation is still fresh in your mind.

Following the call, wait a day or two and send a thank-you email or card in the mail to the person with whom you spoke. Staying positive throughout the call and afterward shows your determination and interest in the position.

Need help finding a role and preparing for your first phone interview? Nelson has nearly 50 years of experience matching talented and positive job seekers with opportunities that fit their abilities. Learn more about how our staffing agency can help you at