Ask A Recruiter: Handling Phone Interviews

Q:  Phone interviews make me nervous. Do you have any advice for handling them?

A:  The majority of phone interviews are used as screening sessions before a regular, sit-down interview takes place. The interviewer is trying to eliminate the candidates they don’t want to spend time meeting with. In this situation, your goal is to get through the screening process, i.e. you probably won’t be winning the job based on this interview, although it is important to prepare for it.

In a small number of cases, the “real” interview does occur by phone – for instance if the decision-maker is travelling or working remotely. In this case, much of the preparation is similar to preparing for an in-person interview. My colleague, Greg Menzone, recently blogged about preparing for an interview and I recommend you take a look at his tips for researching the company you’re interviewing with, practicing your responses and answering standard questions.

Although the questions that you are asked by the interviewer are likely to be the same, there are some key differences between phone and in-person interviews. First, consider that the majority of what is communicated in an interview is actually nonverbal (research shows that 55% of communication is visual, 38% is tonality and only 7% is your actual language). It’s also hard to know what’s happening on the other end of the phone. For instance, the interviewer could have their email open or could have you on ‘mute’ while they talk to people coming by their office. This is one of the reasons I don’t recommend doing phone interviews unless they are absolutely necessary.

If you find yourself facing a phone interview here are some tips for making it successful:

  • Try to find an isolated environment where you can talk without being disturbed. I highly recommend using a land line and not a cell phone.  If you have to use a cell phone, don’t be mobile, stay still so you won’t lose the signal.
  • Be professional. Even though no one can see you, you should treat the phone interview the way you would treat a regular, in-person interview that takes place in a busy professional office. Have your resume in front of you and have questions that you’ve prepared on hand so you can refer to them if needed.
  • Express excitement with your tone of voice. Since you won’t be able to use body language to convey your excitement about the job opening, do what you can to convey it with your voice. Try to mirror the person you’re speaking with. For example, you don’t want to strike a laid back, casual attitude with your tone if they person you are speaking with is extremely upbeat – it will result in an awkward, mismatched conversation. As a rule of thumb, your tone should be slightly more upbeat than the interviewer’s.  Standing up when you’re talking will help your energy flow and smiling during your conversation (even when the other person can’t see you) will help convey a positive spirit.
  • Ask about next steps. If your phone interview is a success, the next step is probably an in-person interview. A good way to end the phone conversation is to ask about the next step and to state your willingness to meet in person.


About the Recruiter
Frank Gentile is a 20+ year veteran of the staffing industry and an experienced recruiter.  As a Director at Professional Staffing Group (PSG) Frank and his team place candidates in permanent positions in Corporate Accounting and Finance, Financial Services and Administrative roles.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s