The Do’s and Don’ts of Phone Interviews

By Maria Markoulli

If you are offered an informal or formal phone interview, this is your opportunity to show the Recruiter or Hiring Manager that you have what it takes to proceed to the face-to-face interview stage. While most interview anxiety often arises in face-to-face interviews, phone interviews need to be taken just as seriously. If you ask anyone who has had recruitment practice, they’ll be able to tell you about some pretty funny (and not so funny) phone interview experiences.

Quick pre-interview tips

  1. Make sure you have a voicemail inbox set up. There is nothing more frustrating for busy recruiters than someone not having a message system set up! Make sure to check it regularly.
  2. If your phone interview is scheduled, make sure you prepare! You need to ensure you have thoroughly researched the company and are prepared to explain why you think you align to the values and culture of their firm.
  3. Have a look at our tips and practice questionsto help you prepare your answers.
  4. Think of questions to ask the phone interviewer. A good go-to question could sound something like: “What do you enjoy most about working at XXXXX?” This shows that you are keen to understand what the working environment is really like, beyond just the role itself.
  5. Keep your resume easily accessible or have a copy of your LinkedIn profile in front of you; it may prove useful when you need to answer general questions about your past experience and achievements.


So, here are my top “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for phone interview preparation and etiquette.

Phone interview do’s

Do: If you are cold-called, ask the interviewer for a few moments to move to a quiet area (or to pull over if you’re driving). If the time isn’t ideal, politely ask if it is possible for the interviewer to call at another time.

Do: If you have time to prepare, make sure you have arranged to be in a ‘noise-free’ and ‘distraction-free’ environment, and have a pen and paper on to take notes.

Do: Ensure you have accessed amenities ahead of your phone interview; this is not the time to go to the bathroom!

Do: If you have a landline phone, use that instead of your mobile phone. That way, you can avoid poor reception issues or dropped calls.

Do: Be polite throughout the interview and remember to say “thank you” where appropriate. Don’t forget to be mindful of your tone!

Do: Smile! Giving your dimples a workout during a phone interview may sound silly at first but it works! Research has shown that smiling will help you in projecting positivity through your tone.

Do: Be honest about your situation. Applying for a job is a two-way street; being honest in the phone interview stage will help you find the right fit and avoid running into any awkward conversation if you proceed to latter stages.


Phone interview don’ts

Don’t: Have an inappropriate answering machine song or message set up.

Don’t: Attempt to conduct a phone interview through speaker phone, as the phone usually captures all the background noise.

Don’t: Tell the interviewer that you have applied for the role because you “just need a job”. You need to show that you are keen, not only for the role but also to work at their particular firm.

Don’t: Tell or give the impression to the phone interviewer that you are in the process of researching the company while you are on the phone with them. Typing loudly and pausing between words is a bit of a giveaway and can create a negative impression. (Yes, that has happened before).

Don’t: Avoid common conversation faux pas: Do not interrupt the interviewer when they are speaking, avoid talking quietly or too fast, and don’t eat, smoke or drink during the interview. Careful not to waffle on in your answers!

Don’t: Answer calls in the restroom; yes, this has occurred more times than you would think and candidates have told the recruiter about it.

Don’t: Use colloquial or inappropriate language. It is very easy to fall into a conversational style over the phone. While it is important to be natural and yourself, it is imperative that you still use professional language. The recruiter is asking themselves if the person on the other end will do well in a face-to-face interview.


For more advice, come see us for a drop-in consultation, sign-up for one of our interview skills workshops, or see our online resources:

Interview Advice through Drop-in

CB01.04.13 - 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday

Interview Skills Toolkit

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Maria Markoulli is a Recruitment Advisor at UTS:Careers. She has previously worked in human resources and recruitment and has experienced life as both an undergraduate and a postgraduate student. She utilises this background to offer tailored guidance to students, which assists them in preparing for any recruitment process that comes their way.


Author: Guest Contributor

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