Phone Interview Tips- For an Effective First Impression

John Smith, VP Technical Services at an Investment Bank was interviewing a senior information security professional on the phone last month in April, 2007 during the phone interview the candidate suddenly requested John to be on hold as another call was coming through. John, was perplexed but obliged the request, this was a clear indication to him that the candidate was not very interested and did not consider the phone interview to be important enough as he would have otherwise ignored the call and continued with the ongoing conversation. Obviously he was not invited for an in-person interview. In another instance, a different potential candidate suddenly paused in midst of a phone interview to check his emails.

We must understand the significance of a phone interview as that is the first hurdle the candidate has to cross successfully in order to proceed further in landing a job, this cannot be taken lightly. Emphasis needs to be placed on effectively representing oneself over the phone and seriously considering a phone interview as an important step in the job interview process. The goal of a phone interview is to secure an in-person meeting.

Here are few tips for an effective first impression over the phone

1. Be Prepared, Minimize Distractions

When a call is scheduled plan to be in a quiet place where you can talk without any distractions, make sure you have your note pad with relevant points, questions to ask prepared before the call. If the call is unexpected it is OK to request to reschedule the phone appointment. Avoid doing multi-tasking while taking the phone interview like checking emails, browsing the internet, feeding your cat, answering the door bell, washing dishes, etc. Focus your efforts entirely in the phone conversation as this is the first hurdle you need to cross for getting an in-person interview.

2. Avoid Using Cell Phones

As far as possible avoid using a cell phone for a phone interview, chances are high that the signal and reception can be poor which can turn off a potential employer and can end the call prematurely.

3. Good Communication is Critical

Applicants should sharpen their verbal skills and communication and mentally rehearse their script several times before the phone interview. This will reflect confidence, focus and a certain level of organization which will be displayed in the conversation. During a phone interview applicants are largely evaluated by what they say and how they say it, therefore they need to ensure they are prepared for the call and are in a position to passionately talk about themselves, their relevant experience, their value to the company, professionalism and more. Please be brief and to the point while communicating and make sure the interviewer is getting a sense of what you are talking about.

4. Demonstrate Enthusiasm & Liveliness

While conversing ensure your voice is lively and interesting while maintaining a good pace and keeping track of volume. A good practice is taping yourself while role-playing a telephone interview to check your voice and confidence over the phone. Demonstration of interest and enthusiasm is a key factor in a phone interview.

5. Prepare Responses & Questions to ask in a typical phone interview:

  • Responses-
  • What are you looking for?
  • Why are you looking to change your current job?
  • Are you currently employed? If not, why?
  • What are your current earnings?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Are you willing to relocate? Travel?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What motivates you in a job?
  • What is interesting about this job opportunity?


  • Scope of responsibilities
  • Key skills required
  • Company work environment
  • Soft skills required for the position
  • Job Location /travel requirements
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • Are you willing to relocate? Travel?
  • Career advancement
  • Salary and other benefits
  • How soon are they looking to fill this position

6. Be a Good Listener

Avoid interrupting and let the interviewer complete his thought or question before you respond. Listen to what he/she is saying patiently. Ask for clarification and relevant questions where required. Use open-ended questions. The more information you can gather, the better you can respond.

7. Close the Interview

At the end of the interview, convey to the interviewer that you're interested (assuming you are) and want to pursue your candidacy with the company further. Ask about the next step in the interview process as well as the hiring timetable. If you think you have not received a positive response and you're sincerely interested, ask the interviewer if he or she has any areas of concern. If there is a communication gap about you or the interviewer does not seem confident that you're suitable, try to clarify the problem, then ask again about the next step and when you can possible hear from the company to move along the interview process. Make a note of the interviewer's contact information and job title.

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