Tips on How to Handle Telephone Interviews

By Julie Doyle – Employment Consultant, Thornhill Employment Hub

Several years ago, receiving a phone call from an employer you had applied to, was an automatic invitation to an in-person interview. However due to the growing competition for positions, this is no longer the case. Employers are increasingly using the telephone interview as a quick and efficient way to short list potential candidates. This very first phone call is more often than not, your first interview, so you need to be prepared. Depending on how you as a candidate handle and respond to this form of interview, will determine whether or not the employer will be interested enough to invite you in for a personal interview.


As a job seeker, it is important to prepare yourself for a phone interview in order to effectively demonstrate your communication skills and capture the interest of the interviewer. As soon as you send out your cover letter and resume, you should immediately prepare for an interview. Taking the time now to prepare will give you added confidence when the phone rings. Review the following tips to help you prepare and improve your telephone interview skills.


  1. Be Organized. An employer does not want to feel that you have applied to every position under the sun, therefore make sure that you are organized and know who is calling, so that you do not have to ask “So which job are you calling about?”. Keep a journal of all positions applied for, the company and contact person’s name and phone number. Having the call display feature on your home and cell phone is a great benefit, so that you know who is calling. Remember to answer each call with a smile.


  2.  To Answer or Not? Imagine you are stuck in traffic, it’s hot outside and the children are in the back seat with the

       radio blaring, you have groceries including ice cream that is melting in the trunk, and you receive a phone call on

       your cell from your dream employer who has received your resume. Are you in the right frame of mind to

       participate in a telephone interview? Probably not! So what do you do? If you let the call go to voice mail, you may

       miss out on the opportunity, if you answer; it is unlikely that you would be able to give the interviewer your

       undivided attention. Ideally, you should answer, let the employer know that this call is extremely important to

       you, however you are currently driving and would like to reschedule within the next hour in order to give your

       full attention to the caller. Make sure that you call them back as soon as possible and thank them for their



  3.  Schedule it for a quiet time. If you have the opportunity to schedule the time of the phone interview, be sure to

       schedule it when you know you will be able to give the interviewer your full attention. Limit or eliminate any

       distractions or any loud noises that may be distractive to you and/or your interviewer. In many cases you might

       not have the opportunity to previously set up the time of the call, so apply the strategies below to be prepared for

       that unexpected call.


  4.  Have your resume next to the phone. Be sure it is the same copy you had sent out to the employer who is calling.

       Your interviewer will be looking at your resume throughout the interview, and you want to be sure you know

       exactly what he/she is talking about. It will help make the interview run smoothly if you are both looking at the

       same version of your history. You do not want to give the impression of being unsure of some of the details of

       your experience. As with a face to face interview, have specific examples ready to demonstrate that you have the

       skills that they are looking for.


  5.  Prepare notes. One great benefit of this type of interview is that the interviewer cannot see you; so take advantage

       of the fact that this is over the phone. Have all your notes and research spread out in front of you in easy to read

       bulleted points and highlight key words that you want to mention. Prepare answers ready to some basic

       questions like, “why do you want to work for our company?” or “why should I hire you?” Use these as a reference

       guide, as you want to sound natural in your communication, not as if you are reading a script.


  6.  Research the company. Make sure you know the company. Use the Internet or make some phone calls to find out

       more about their products, services or mission statement. You should highlight a few things in your notes that

       you can refer to in case questions that require company knowledge come up. You will stand out from the other

       candidates if you are familiar with the company background and especially if you can relate an aspect of yourself,

       your skills or experience to the company in some way. For example, you notice on the website they are an

       environmentally friendly company and you have experience setting up a recycling project in your previous

       company. Share this information with them as it demonstrates how you can contribute to their success through

       mutual interests.


At the conclusion of the interview, it is extremely important that you reiterate your sincere interest in the position and that you are confident that your skills and experience can benefit the company. Ask what are the next steps in the interview process, and inform the interviewer that you look forward to meeting them in person. As with all interviews, be sure to send a thank you note to the interviewer within twenty four hours thanking them for their time and consideration. This will certainly out distance you from your competition.