How to give a great phone interview – a recruiter’s tips

worker on office phoneIn digital communications, organisations use a high percentage of contractors or hire people from farther afield than the city limits. A phone interview is an efficient first step to screen job candidates and decide if you’re a potential fit for the job.

Whether a recruiter has presented you or you’ve been selected from a direct application, your potential employer has already seen your CV and knows you’ve been informed about the organisation generally and about the position. They might have already researched you online. The phone interview picks up here.

What a phone interview covers

A telephone chat is meant to cover things that might not automatically be included in a covering letter or CV. Consider it an initial ‘getting to know each other’ stage, where you learn about the job and the organisation, and they learn about your skills and cultural fit.

This is not the time to discuss rate or availability – that will either go through the recruiter or be part of discussions further down the line.

Tips for a great phone interview

Job interview confidence is all about good preparation and doing your groundwork, and will also help reduce your nerves.


  • Set aside a quiet space to take the call, with no distractions from pets, people or other phones.
  • A landline connection will be more reliable; if using a cordless or mobile phone, make sure you have good reception and a charged battery.
  • Dress the part – casual clothes aren’t going to help you feel or sound professional.
  • Have your CV and covering letter to hand.
  • Pour a glass of water in case of dry mouth.
  • Take a few deep, calming breaths before you start.


  • Be ready to talk about how you’ve approached work challenges in the past.
  • Say why this work and company are interesting to you, elaborate on what you can offer in this context.
  • Ask questions about tasks and reporting structure – job ads can be vague so this is your chance to find out more.
  • Take notes, ready for your next interview round.
  • Try to convey enthusiasm about the job and organisation as non-verbal cues are limited to those in your voice. Smiling as you talk or standing up can really help.
  • Keep answers concise.


  • With no non-verbal cues from your interviewer either, double-check that they have found out all they need to know and ask if they need more detail on any points.
  • Don’t wrap up the conversation yourself – be guided by your interviewer.
  • Finish on a high note – restate your interest in the job, ask about next steps and remember to thank your interviewer.
  • Be polite – follow up with a short thank-you note post-interview. You can also reiterate your interest in the job, but keep it short.

Image: (CC) NEC Corporation of America / Flickr

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