All You Need To Know About Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are often the first step in the interview process! Here’s how to prepare for your phone interview:


Why a Phone Interview?

Why do managers ask for phone interviews? Phone interviews are used to narrow down the number of applicants who will be interviewed in person. If you get a phone interview, you need to know that making it to an in-person interview isn’t definite. You need to earn that in-person interview! Here’s our inside scoop on how you’re going to get there:


Why Phone Interviews Matter

Phone interviews matter because this is how you get into the in-person interview. This is often a phone screening to make sure your skills and experience really do match your resume. While this may be obvious to you that of course, they do, the people on the other side have probably seen more than a few “exaggerations” on resumes. Hiring someone off of their resume can lead to a disastrous situation where they then need to fire the person they just hired. Hiring and firing someone costs companies more money and time than not hiring anyone. The phone interview is one more level of precaution to make sure you match your skills.

Most Phone Interviews are Short

Phone interviews typically take up less time than in-person interviews. Phone interviews are often shorter than in-person interviews because it’s for the hiring manager to gauge if you’ve got the basic skills. It’s pretty common for phone interviews to be anywhere from ten minutes to twenty minutes long, but very rarely more than that. Anything more than thirty minutes long for a phone interview is extremely unusual.


Phone Interviews vs. In-Person Interviews

Pros to Phone Interviews vs. In-Person Interviews

  • Ability to take notes or refer to notes while you’re on the phone
  • Able to be in comfortable clothing, place, and position
  • No commute

Cons to Phone Interviews vs. In-Person Interviews

  • It’s harder to make a connection with the interviewer
  • More difficult to be memorable since you’re only a voice on the phone
  • You’re not able to read the interviewer’s facial expression in response to your answers or read their body language

Now there is a debate over whether or not you should be in front of a computer when you’re in the phone interview. The sound of typing can be easily heard by someone on the other end of the phone, which implies that you don’t actually know the answer. We don’t recommend it for that reason. Even if you were able to cover up the sound of the keys, you would still be expected to know the answer once in an in-person interview. If you have a phone interview for a technical job and you’re nervous, you can always use this chance to have some notes about things you already know about. Since interviewers are also aware that you could have used notes during the phone interview, they are likely to go over that same information again during an in-person interview.  Make sure you know you’re confident in your answers!


Can I Be Hired Off of a Phone Interview?

It is extremely rare to be hired off of just a phone interview. This isn’t completely unheard of, but it’s usually reserved for either jobs that can be done entirely on the phone or remote positions (and most remote positions will follow up with a video chat interview).


How to Prepare For Your Phone Interview

Get the Details Ahead of Time

You need to know:

  • What’s the name of the person calling? Do you know their role? Do you have their email address or the email address of someone who knows them so you can send a thank you email afterward?
  • What day and time are they calling?
  • Are they in the same time zone? More than one phone interview has been ruined by people forgetting about time zones.
  • If the call drops, do you have the number to call them back? Even these days, not everyone has perfect cell reception.
  • What quiet place will you have this conversation and do you have good phone reception there? Having a phone interview in a grocery store, gym, or other loud and public place won’t work. Maybe you can hear yourself, but often the person listening will hear you, the cashier, the other people in line, etc.
  • Do you have your phone charger ready? It’s pretty lame if you lose a job opportunity because your phone battery dies.

Get the Tools!

Your interviewer will have notes in front of them, so why shouldn’t you?

  • A printed copy of your resume (great for those “walk me through your resume” interview questions)
  • Cover letter if you gave them one
  • Water
  • Paper and pen/pencil
  • List of some questions you have for them about the company or position
  • Any notes you’d like to refer to, particularly if this is a technical job you’ve applied to
  • If you have a separate device available for the internet, pull up the company’s website so you can refer to it


Research The Company Ahead of Time

This is like any other interview, with the exception that you can have some notes on hand. Too many people think a phone interview isn’t as important, but remember that this is to narrow down how many people get the in-person interview. Browse the company’s website to see if they have any recent news and scroll through their social media. Check for a mission statement, some history, and what kind of company they are so you can present your answers appropriately.


Have Some Questions Ready for the end, When They Ask “Do You Have Any Questions For Us?”

Do you have questions to ask them? Now would be a good time! Whether it’s about what the day-to-day looks like, or why they’re hiring now, it’s always good to know if this is a good fit for you before you’re more invested in this particular job.

Need ideas? 67 Great Interview Questions to Ask a Potential Employer


Practice and Be Ready

When you answer the phone, make sure to include your name so the interviewer doesn’t have to ask for you – implying that you’re not ready for this interview. Set the right first impression with an easy answer like “Hello, this is (your name here)” and it’s as simple as that. This way you avoid the other person saying “oh, I was looking for (your name here)?”. If you forget and this happens anyway, it’s polite to respond with “This is her” or “This is him”.

As for the other questions, be sure to know why you want to work there and show enthusiasm! When they ask “walk me through your resume”,  it helps to have your resume in front of you so that you can talk about how you got to this point in your career – and how it’s relevant to the role you’re currently interviewing for. Remember that this is a very real interview and you need to prepare as much as if you were going to an in-person interview.


During Your Phone Interview

Make Sure You Smile During the Phone Interview!

According to this study from the University of Portsmouth, smiling changes how human vocal cords sound. How much does it change? Smiling affects how we speak so much that listeners can identify what kind of smile the speaker has based on just the sound. Sounds coming from a trumpet or horn change when the sizes and shapes are altered, so it makes sense that a change in your vocal cords and mouth shape does the same thing. So be sure to smile during your phone interview!


Sit Up Straight

Just like how your mouth’s shape changes how your voice sounds, sitting up straight will make your vocal cords change as well. Sitting up straight or standing in a power pose will help project your voice clearly and sound confident. Even if you’re not confident, this is the best way to ‘fake-it-until-you-make-it’. So stand or sit up straight!


Is Your Phone Interview Going Well?

So how do you know if your phone interview is going well? It’s a short conversation with a stranger that can determine if you’re going to have an in-person interview (and possibly a new job) or not. Here’s what you should pay attention to during that conversation:

  • Did the conversation feel awkward?
  • Was the interviewer friendly?
  • Did the interviewer listen to what you said and ask follow-up questions?
  • Was the conversation extremely short or did it go for about as long as you expected?
  • Were you asked any difficult questions? If so, how did you do?
  • Did they try to ‘sell’ the company to you?
  • Did they tell you when you’d be contacted next?

Ideally, no part of the interview should have felt awkward or kept to only awkward moments. If the entire conversation felt clunky then it’s possible that you and the interviewer weren’t able to really connect. If the interviewer wasn’t friendly, didn’t acknowledge what you have said, and didn’t ask any follow-up questions, then that’s not a good sign.

Check the time when you’re done. Was the conversation the regular length of a phone conversation, such as ten to twenty minutes long, or was it even shorter? If it was closer to five minutes, that’s not a good sign. The longer, the better.

Sometimes there are difficult questions that require you to explain a situation or any technical questions to answer? If you were asked any questions like that, then the interviewer liked what they heard so far. Even better if you’re confident that you gave the best possible answer. If you stumbled over your words or changed your answer partway through, then you may have come across as not confident in your answer.

Not all interviewers will try to ‘sell’ you on the company during a phone interview. If the other person told you why the job was a good one, that’s a great sign!

The biggest sign of how well you did is if they told you when they’d contact you. Waiting times vary depending on the industry, but generally, you can expect to hear back within one to two weeks. Remember that people get busy, work can be overwhelming,


What to do Afterwards

Write and Send a ‘Thank You’ Email

Sending an email thanking the hiring manager for their time and to further express your interest in this position could make the difference in getting the next interview or not. Be sure to follow through on this last part because being a voice on the phone makes it all the harder to make an impression. Make sure to include the name of the position you interviewed for, what day it was, your own name, and have a closing line about why you’d be the best person to hire.

Not sure how to write that thank email? We’ve got you covered!

3 Templates for Your Post-Interview Thank You Email

Follow Up After a Reasonable Time

The general rule is the earlier you are in the interview process, the sooner you should follow up. Since most phone interviews happen quite early on, checking in after a week is a reasonable amount of time. Ideally, your hiring manager will tell you at the end of the interview when they will be making a decision of who goes onto the next round.

Follow up based on when the hiring manager said they would have a decision. Did they say a week? Wait a week. Two weeks? Wait two weeks.

When following up, be sure to include the name of the position, who you spoke with, and what information you’re looking for, such as “I was checking to see if there was any update on the interview process.” Keep it simple and professional.


By now you should know what to do ahead of time to prepare, how to conduct yourself during the phone interview, and how and when to follow up afterward. Good luck!


Looking for more articles about improving your career? Career Articles

3 Templates for Your Post-Interview Thank You Email

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