Preparing for phone interviews

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Telephone interviews are common for pre-screening applicants before face-to-face interviews.

  • For international job vacancies, employers benefit from the ability to interview candidates from a much wider geographical area in much greater numbers than they would at a face-to-face interview
  • The goal of a telephone interview from an employer’s point of view is a first filter to eliminate unsuitable candidates.
  • For you, the job hunter, the telephone interview has advantages and disadvantages. Telephone interviews give you more control over the setting and environment of the interview. On the other hand, they do not allow you to see or respond to the non-verbal clues available at a face-to-face interview.
  • Your goal is to prepare in advance for the telephone interview in order to proceed to the face to face/in person interview.



  1. Keep details of all the jobs you have applied for together with your research data on each in separate folders close to the phone. These will be especially important in the case of unscheduled calls from agencies or employers you have approached, where your ability to come across as a prepared candidate could make the difference in getting to the next stage.
  2. Prepare an interview pack to keep by the telephone. It should contain your CV, pen or pencil and a pad of paper.
  3. Prepare for a phone interview in the same way you would for a face-to-face interview.
  4. Prepare a few questions to ask at the end of the call.


  1. Avoid distractions, close the door, warn family and friends not to make a noise. Turn off sound on cellphone/mobile and all other devices.
  2. How you sound to the interviewer will form a large part of the selection procedure. The tone of your voice can transmit all sorts of emotions, nervousness, confidence, anxiety, uncertainty and so on. Practise smiling on the phone – it will automatically give your voice a lift and change how you sound.
  3. Standing up while on the telephone is a trick to control and help project your voice.
  4. Remember, short sentences are more powerful than rambling narrations.
  5. If you are unclear about a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it.
  6. Write questions down, especially if they are in multiple parts.
  7. If you get a tough question, buy yourself time by repeating it out loud to the interviewer. This will give you time to think and ensure that your answer is relevant.
  8. Don’t be afraid of silences and don’t be tempted to keep talking long after your point has been made. They can always ask you for more detail
  9. Beware of being overly familiar with the interviewer because you are in your own environment.
  10. Try not to umms and ahhs, or use phrases like “to be honest”.
  11. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for his/her time.


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