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How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

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If you've been looking for a job recently, you probably already know that phone interviews are becoming increasingly common. What you may not know is how to properly prepare for a phone interview.

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Prepare for a phone interview carefully. (Image Source)

In most phone interviews you can't see your interviewer and they can't see you. (Although FaceTime and Skype interviews are growing in popularity.) But even without a visual connection to your interviewer, you can still come across as a professional.

Preparing for a phone interview is a lot like preparing for a face-to-face interview, but there are some important differences. In this tutorial, we'll teach you how to prepare for a phone interview. We'll also go over phone interview etiquette and provide some other phone interview tips that you can use before, during and after your interview.

Why Do Companies Use Phone Interviews?

You may wonder why companies use phone interviews. There are several reasons why a business might use a phone interview instead of a face-to-face interview. Here are three possible reasons:

  1. As a preliminary interview. Many businesses use phone interviews to screen job candidates. If the purpose of the interview is to narrow down the number of candidates being considered, you'll be asked a few basic questions. Based on your answers, the company will eliminate you from their pool of prospective candidates or pass you on to the next round of interviewing.
  2. Due to distance. Remote work is becoming more and more common. Even for inhouse positions, the company may want to consider candidates outside of their geographic area who would relocate if hired. Phone interviews are an ideal means of interviewing these nonlocal prospects.  Plus, telephone interviews broaden the number of candidates that can be considered.
  3. As a check on your phone skills. Many positions require customer contact through the phone. If the position you're being considered is one of these, a recruiter may wish to conduct a phone interview to make sure that your phone skills are adequate for the job. Candidates who don't have a good phone presence or come across as unprofessional can quickly be eliminated.

No matter what the reason for the phone interview is, it's important that you take it seriously. A phone interview could determine whether you get hired.

Now, let's take a closer look at what you can do to increase your chances of getting hired.

Before: How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

You should prepare for a phone interview just as carefully as you would prepare for a face-to-face interview. For a more successful phone interview, here are some phone interview tips you can follow:

1. Have a Professional Resume

If you're looking for work, a professional resume can help you to make a positive impression so that you're invited to phone interviews and other interviews. Making an eye-catching resume isn't too hard if you use the right tools. Learn how to personalize a resume template in this tutorial:

At Envato Elements and GraphicRiver you'll find a wide variety of customizable resume templates. Take a look at this article to get an idea of what's available:

2. Research the Company

If you can help it, you should never go into an interview without knowing anything about the interviewing company. Phone interviews are no exception.

Learn everything you can about the company before the interview. Here are some research steps to take:

  • Visit the company website. Read any recent blog posts they may have. If there's a product page on the website, take a look at it. The About Us page can be particularly helpful when it comes to learning about a company.

  • Check LinkedIn. Executives at most medium to large size businesses can be found on LinkedIn. Look at the profiles of the people who are running the business to learn more about the corporate culture.

  • Talk to your contacts. While you are on LinkedIn, check to see if any of your contacts currently work at the company, or have worked there in the past. A current or former employee can give you an insider's perspective.

  • Look at social media. Most larger companies have a social media presence. Browsing through a company's social media accounts will help you learn even more about the company and how they interact with the public.

  • Search the news. If the company's been in the news lately, as a prospective employee you should know why. Use the search engines with the News and Recent filters to find any articles published about them.

The more you learn about the company, its industry, and culture--the more prepared you'll be.

3. Practice Answering Possible Questions

While you can't be certain about which interview questions you'll be asked, there are some questions that are commonly asked. Have a friend ask you these questions and practice answering them to prepare for your phone interview.

For a list of commonly asked interview questions (and answers) review these tutorials:

4. Make Sure You're Available

If a recruiter sets a time and date for your interview, make sure that you're available. If you'll be using a cell phone, make sure the battery is charged and the ring tone is turned on so you don't miss the call. If you've got another job, you may need schedule the phone interview during your day off or during a break.

You'll need a quiet, comfortable place to answer the phone. Ideally, you would take the phone interview call from your home. But I've known people who successfully completed a phone interview from their parked car during a work break. (Don't ever attempt to do a phone interview while you're driving.)

5. Tell Others You're Expecting an Interview

If you'll be doing the interview from your home, make sure that family members and roommates know that you're expecting an interview call. Ask them not to play loud music or otherwise make noise during the scheduled time. They should also refrain from interrupting you while you're on the phone.

Also, you should answer the phone yourself. Don't ask a friend to answer for you.

6. Make Sure Your Phone Message Is Professional

While you're job hunting, your phone message should be professional. It should state who you are clearly and the number that the caller has reached. Delete any humorous or offensive references.

During: Telephone Interview Tips

Now that you've done some preparation, it's time for the phone interview. Here are some tips you can use during your telephone interview:

1. Answer the Phone Professionally

How you answer your telephone is important since it may be the first impression the interviewer gets of you. Make a habit of always answering your phone professionally if you're looking for work.

While some phone interviews are scheduled, sometimes recruiters may call unexpectedly. A recruiter may also call during an unscheduled time to set up an interview or to confirm or change an interview time.

2. Be Polite

Telephone etiquette is especially important during phone interviews. Here's a list of some common phone etiquette practices:

  • Answer the phone promptly. Try to answer within three rings so that the caller doesn't become impatient. When the interview is scheduled keep your phone handy so you don't waste time looking for it.
  • Identify yourself when you answer. The interviewer needs to know that they've reached the right person. If the caller doesn't identify themselves, ask who you're speaking with if you don't already know their name.
  • Be friendly when you answer the phone. It's normal to be nervous during an interview and sometimes that comes across in your voice. One trick that will naturally lighten your tone of voice is to smile as you answer.
  • Note the interviewer's correct name. Listen to how they identify themselves. Pay attention to how their name is pronounced. Use their name several times during the conversation.
  • Be calm. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't panic. Say something like, "I don't feel prepared to answer that, can I get back to you with the answer?" When you get the answer, be sure to follow through.
  • Try not to put the interviewer on hold. Avoid interrupting your telephone interview call. If you absolutely must put the caller on hold, apologize and ask their permission to put them on hold. Get back to the call as quickly as you can. 

Good manners always leave a positive impression and can help set you apart from other job candidates.

3. Listen Carefully

When the interviewer speaks, listen carefully to what they say. Also, don't interrupt them even if you think you know what they're going to say.

It's okay to pause to think about a question, but don't wait too long. If you're struggling to come up with an answer, admit it. Say something like: "I'd never thought about that before, but it's a good question."

4. Speak Clearly

Speak in whole sentences and enunciate clearly. Don't mumble. Also, don't use slang expressions. Your interviewer may be from a different part of the world and be unfamiliar with local slang.

Remember that the interviewer can't see you. Unlike in a face-to-face interview, they won't know if you nod your head in agreement. They can't read any of your body language signals.

5. Keep Your Resume Nearby

Your telephone interviewer may have some questions about your resume. Keep it where you can see it during the interview. Keep a list handy with other information you might need to refer to. But don't have so many papers that you've got to shuffle through them to find what you're looking for.

6. Ask Your Own Questions

The interview process goes two ways. It's also a chance for you to find out whether the job is a good fit for you. So, don't be afraid to ask your own interview questions. Use this tutorial as inspiration to come up with your own questions for the phone interviewer:

After: What to Do When the Phone Interview Is Over

When your telephone interview is over you're not done. There are still a few tasks you can perform to help you get hired. Here are two things to do:

1. Send a Thank-You Note

A thank-you note is a simple courtesy that sets you apart from other candidates. Although it's easy to do, many job seekers don't bother to send out a thank-you after an interview.

You can send your thank-you note by email, or if you've got the interviewer's address, mail out a formal thank-you. This tutorial provides some guidance on how to write and send an email thank-you:

2. Don't Forget to Follow Up

It's also a good idea to follow up after an interview to see if a decision has been made. How long should you wait before following up?

Pay close attention during the interview. Often, the interviewer will give you a timeline for their hiring decision. For example, they may say something like: "We're going to make a decision by the end of the week."

If you've got a timeline for the hiring decision, give them a few extra days after the deadline has passed before you contact them. These decisions rarely run on schedule and things often come up to delay the decision. If you don't have a timeline for when they intend to fill the job, many experts recommend waiting about two weeks from the date of your interview before you follow up.


Preparing for a phone interview is easy if you know what to do. If you're ready for the phone interview and use good etiquette during the interview, you're more likely to get hired.

Even after the telephone interview is over, there are still a few steps you can take to make your phone interview more successful. Good luck in your job hunt!

Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2018. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.

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