How to do well in telephone interviews

Telephone interviews take place in the early stages of the job selection process. Follow our tips to show an employer you are the best person for the job.

Schedule your telephone interview

When you're invited to have an interview, make sure to note down the:

  • date and time
  • name of the person who will be calling you
  • details of the organisation
  • details of the job role - this is important if you're applying for different jobs at the same time, as you could get them mixed up

You should also check that the company has the right telephone number to reach you on the day.

Do your research

Like a face to face interview the employer will want to see how enthusiastic you are about joining the company and getting this role. Make sure that you:

  • research the company and what's involved in the job-use the job description to help
  • look at the company website and get an understanding of their culture and values
  • go over your CV or application form

With this information, you can then plan how you will show that you have the skills and experience the employer wants. To help you plan, you could:

  • think about the sorts of questions the interviewer will ask
  • use the STAR method to plan your answers
  • make some prompt cards to have in front of you during the call

Think ahead

While planning what questions the interviewer will ask you, you should also prepare 2 or 3 questions you can ask the interviewer.

Try to think of ones that make you sound well motivated, like:

  • how the interviewer found their own career path to the company
  • what kind of training or development opportunities will be available to you

Plan where to take the call

You’ll need somewhere quiet without any distractions. If you live in a shared space you may need to ask your housemates or family to be quiet during your interview.

If you have caring responsibilities, get help if you can, so you can focus. You should organise everything well in advance.

Get some practice

Practising with a mock telephone interview may help to calm your nerves, boost your confidence and help you perform better on the day.

You could get help from:

  • your university careers service, school or college careers adviser 
  • an adviser from the National Careers Service
  • a friend or family member willing to call and ask you some interview questions

If you don’t have anyone to help, you could record yourself and then play back your recording to make sure:

  • your voice is clear
  • you are speaking at the right pace – try not to talk too fast if you are nervous
  • you sound keen and engaged

Try smiling while you talk – it makes you sound friendly and upbeat, even if the interviewer can’t see you.

On the interview day

The advantage of a telephone interview is that the recruiter can’t see you, so you can have:

  • pen and paper to write down any notes
  • our interview advice to help you
  • your CV and application form with you
  • cards to prompt - if you have these

Make a few final checks, like:

  • if you’re using a mobile phone, make sure it’s charged well
  • find and use earphones if you have them
  • if you’re using a landline turn off your mobile so it doesn’t go off during the call
  • make sure your environment is quiet and you have no distractions

Even though the recruiter can’t see you, it's a good idea to dress smart. It gets you into the right mindset for a formal interview situation. Standing up on the call could also help you.

During the call

Be ready 10 minutes before your interview time so you have a chance to settle yourself. Take some deep breaths and try to stay calm.

When you’re on the call you should:

  • be polite and professional
  • if the line is bad or you’re struggling to hear, let the interviewer know
  • do not eat, drink, chew gum or sound bored during a telephone interview
  • listen to the questions and pause before giving your answer - this gives them time to finish speaking and stops you talking over each other
  • be clear and confident when you reply
  • be comfortable enough to ask the interviewer to repeat a question if you are unsure

After the interview

At the end of the interview, you should thank the employer for their time. It’s okay to ask when to expect to hear the outcome of your interview.

When you have hung up, write down 2 or 3 things that you think went well and 2 or 3 that you think you could improve next time, this will help you prepare for your next interview.

Be positive! Even if you don’t get through to the next stage, there are always things to learn from the experience.