Tips for Telephone Interviews

As with any other type of interview, the key to successful telephone interviews is preparation.


Provide the interviewer with a land line phone number to call, if at all possible. While you may have your cell phone number on your resume, the reception on a land line will be much clearer, and you eliminate the risk of your call being dropped. Disable call waiting on your phone as well.

Ensure that you will be in a quiet place where you will be undisturbed by other phone calls, street noise, pets or children.  

Review your resume, the cover letter you sent, and the job description the day before the interview. It may have been several weeks since your initial contact, and you want to be very clear in your own mind about your fit with the position and the value you can add to the organization.

Write down strengths you have related to the position and personal qualities you wish to emphasize. These are almost universal topics that are covered in interviews, and having them written down can help you to answer those questions more easily.

Also write down one or more “weaknesses.” These questions can best be answered by reframing them as potential areas of growth for you, for example that you have had some opportunity to learn about (insert topic here) but that you are eager to learn more.

Write down 3-5 questions that you wish to ask at the end of the interview. You may think of additional follow-up questions during the interview, but it’s essential to have a few prepared ahead of time so that you don’t blank out when asked this question at the end of a fatiguing interview.

Do some additional research on the organization to find out the latest news. Being able to incorporate this into your interview shows a keen interest in the position, and attention to detail.

Have all your documents at hand for reference. This includes your cover letter, résumé,  portfolio materials, and the job description, plus a pad of paper and a pen. Having ready access to these materials is one advantage of telephone interviews!

If given a choice of dates, avoid Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, when interviewers may not be at their most attentive.

Get dressed!  You may think you can do this in your pajamas, but you will sound more professional if dressed as such. 


Walk around and smile while you speak. Doing both of these will make you sound more energized and positive, and at the same time will help to release tension and increase your comfort level.  

Listen carefully to your interviewers’ questions. Don’t hesitate to clarify if you did not catch exactly what was asked.   If your interviewer is using a speakerphone it can sometimes be hard to understand.

If you need a moment to think, interviewers will understand. They prefer a pause followed by a concise, coherent answer to an immediate but rambling response. Repeating the question is recognized as a stalling tactic.

Take brief notes if it helps you to feel more in control. Have a pad of paper and a pen on a table so that you can walk over to it and write notes if you choose to.

Offer brief but specific examples to illustrate any points that you are making. Remember the acronym C-A-R: Challenge, Action, Result. What challenge did you face, what action did you take, and what was the positive result?

Don’t: use a speakerphone, eat, smoke or chew gum.  A sip of water occasionally is fine.

Make sure you have the name of each person on the call so that you can follow up with an e-mailed thank you note within 24-48 hours.  Use your thank you notes as an opportunity to elaborate on an answer you did feel captured everything you wanted to say, or to provide important information about you that did not come up during the interview.