A telephone interview is the toughest

  • Post published:05/09/2012
  • Reading time:4 mins read

BE PREPARED is the most important advice I can give you as a candidate regarding telephone interviews. You don’t have the advantage of seeing the other person. You can’t judge how your answers are received. You can’t obviously use your hands and body language to make your point.

Have your resume placed in front of you and next to the phone. Have any other document or notes on the table which you can refer to if needed. Consider this a business meeting so bring your supporting documents.

Keep a pad and pen handy to take notes during your phone interview.

Have your calendar within reach if the client wants to schedule a follow-up personal interview.

Have a glass of water by the phone and be ready five minutes early.

Be in a quiet place, turn off the television or music, get the dogs outside, and ask your family and children to be quiet and not disturb you during this important phone call.

Stand up and get your energy going, warm up your voice, and smile (it can almost be heard over the telephone).

Even you are not on camera, dress in a businesslike manner to put yourself in the proper frame of mind. Sit or stand with good posture. In fact, if you can, stand up when you talk as your voice will sound more powerful than if sitting (an old tele sales trick). Although your interviewer cannot see you, these things affect the quality of the image you project through your voice.

  • Speak slowly and clearly, with moderate volume and plenty of enthusiasm, positive energy and inflection, keeping your mouth about an inch away from the mouthpiece.
  • Do not eat, chew gum, or smoke.
  • Smile, smile and smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
  • Always answer your phone in a professional manner, whether at home or at work, because you never know who may be calling.
  • Be prepared with a brief summary of yourself, your strengths and accomplishments related to the position, just in case the caller starts by asking you to present yourself.
  • Throughout the interview, use interesting, descriptive language and proper grammar – not slang (“yes” rather than “yeah”). Do not swear or us four-letter words under any circumstances, even if your interviewer does so. Avoid fillers such as “ums” and “errs”.


Try to avoid yes or no answers; answer in short, complete sentences. Let your interviewer speak the majority of the time.

Let your interviewer know you are listening. Periodically use their name. Say “yes” or “I see”, repeat their words, ask follow-up questions.

Do not rush, interrupt, or contradict the interviewer. Listen carefully and make sure you understand the question before you answer. Your answers must be direct and relative short.

During the interview, most of the same rules of in-person interviewing apply. Never say anything on the telephone you would not say in person. Don’t chitchat; stick to business, and don’t let your guard down.

Never ask about compensation. If you are asked directly about your compensation requirements, try to sidestep by saying “Salary is important, but I am more interested in the opportunity at this time.” If asked again, state what you are currently earning (breaking out base, bonuses, and benefits).

Thank the interviewer at the end of the conversation.

In summary, the telephone interview is just like a personal interview, but shorter and without the benefit of non-verbal communication. If you take the telephone interview seriously, prepare thoroughly, listen carefully and respond effectively.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.