Phone Interview Do's and Don'ts

Phone interviews can be both a blessing and curse: As part of a larger interview process, phone interviews generally mean you will have multiple opportunities to impress an interviewer. But since there are probably many other individuals getting screened over the phone, even a small error or a single poor answer to a question can get your name scratched off the candidate list.

Just because you can chat for hours with your friends or families on the phone, make successful sales calls, or lead awesome phone meetings does not mean you'll automatically ace an interview.

Brush up your phone interview etiquette with these do's and don'ts for a successful job interview.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Cultura RM / Getty Images

What does that mean? Well, for one, you probably shouldn't take the call in your pajamas in bed. A few days before the call, prepare for the interview in the same way you would ready yourself for an in-person meeting. Review the questions and answers you'll likely be asked.

When the day comes, wear clothes that help you feel confident, capable, and professional. Then, set up a quiet space where you can sit at a table with a copy of your cover letter and resume.

Make sure you have a pen and paper, and most importantly, keep background noise to a minimum. You don't want your dogs, kids, spouse, or parents yapping for your attention while you're on the phone. Arrange for privacy (or a babysitter) if need be.

Don't Take the Call on Speaker Phone

Calling a client to confirm some details
Tassii/E+/Getty Images 

It's not a good idea to take the call on speakerphone. Though it might appear to help you take notes or be able to look at your resume, it could make it difficult for your interviewer to hear you. Don't risk the chance of being misunderstood or losing a key answer to static. Consider instead wearing a headset if you want to take notes while you talk. 

Don't Multitask

Young woman with cell phone and paperwork at breakfast
Mark John / Getty Images

During your interview, don't make (or drink) coffee, have the TV on in the background, eat lunch, scan your Facebook feed, etc. In fact, you shouldn't be browsing the Internet at all. While it can be helpful to have a browser open in case you need to look up a quick fact, ideally you should limit it to one window only and have your resume and cover letter printed out.

Hopefully, you've already done your research before the interview, so there should be no need to scramble for answers while you're on the phone. 

Don't Talk Too Much

Businessman listening to earbuds at office desk
Tom Merton / Getty Images

In a face-to-face interview, it's easy to read your interviewer's body language and pick up the cue for when you should stop talking. On a phone call, those signs aren't so clear, so it's easy to ramble on.

Whether or not your rambling is adding value to the conversation is irrelevant; at a certain point, your interviewer will stop paying attention, will perceive you as someone who lacks the ability to listen well, and might get annoyed as you chop away time for other, more important questions and answers. Think of your answers like a great cocktail: you don't want it watered down. Keep it short and strong. 

Don't Take the Call in a Public Place

Young woman holding phone, central Stockholm
 olaseri/Stock / Getty Images Plus

Make time for your interview. Only agree to take the call during a time and date in which you can sit down and focus in a quiet space - taking the call in a coffee shop or while on-the-go is not a good move.

If it's going to be difficult to take the call, consider rescheduling for a time that's better. Here's what to do when you need to reschedule a job interview

Do Make Sure Your Connection is Working Properly

Two Businessmen on Tin Can Phone
Xavier Bonghi/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Don't risk interrupting the rapport of your interview with a faulty connection. If you have a landline in your home, generally it should provide a clearer connection than a cell phone. If you are using a cell phone, make sure the service in your location is consistent. And finally, if you're making the call through the Internet, do a test run with someone before your call.

Hint: Silence the devices that you aren't using to take the call. For example, if you're on the landline, put your cell phone on mute. If you're using your cell phone, turn off your computer volume. If you're using your cell phone, turn on "Do Not Disturb" mode once the interview begins, so you do not get distracted by calendar and news alerts or text messages. 

Don't Wait to Call In

Smartphone and laptop on kitchen table
Hesh Photo / Getty Images

Give yourself ample time to set up. Ideally, about 30 minutes before your call, you should be sure you have the right contact information, check your cover letter and resume is handy, and review both your application materials and the company's website to ensure the information is fresh in your mind. 

If you're calling your interviewer and not the other way around, start dialing a minute or so before your scheduled appointment, so your call comes in right on time. If your interviewer is calling you, make sure you're ready to take the call a few minutes prior to the scheduled time. 

Do Speak Up if You Can't Hear

Businesswoman talking on smart phone and working in office
Hero Images/Hero Images/Getty Images 

Don't be afraid to tell your interviewer you can't hear him or her. Speaking up is better than spending the whole interview missing questions. Don't take the fall out from a bad connection. If you can't hear your interviewer well, let them know politely. All you need to say is, "I am sorry, I missed that. I think the connection is poor."

Do Take Notes

Westend61 / Getty Images

While you shouldn't be scribbling away during your interview, if at any time you discuss next steps (e.g., send a portfolio, connect on LinkedIn) or information is shared that you'll need to have on hand later on for your thank you note or a subsequent interview, take notes, so it doesn't slip your mind. Similarly, you can write down any questions that come up. 

Do Get the Interviewer's Email Address

keyboard message, mail

Do ask for an email address if you don't already have it, and follow up immediately. Although you will likely have your interviewer's contact information, make sure it is a personal address and not an "info@" or "HR@" address. Sending a personal thank, you note will ensure it is seen by the right person.

Do Realize That There Will Likely Be Next Steps

Jamie Gill / Getty Images

Do realize that there will likely be next steps. In most cases, a phone interview is only a first step. Sometimes, candidates will even be screened two or three times on the phone before being asked to come into the office.

On the one hand, this is good news in that you have multiple opportunities to prove your candidacy. But, it also means that there will likely be many others vying for the job, so it's important to do your very best each time you interview to make it to the next round.

Don't think that just because you've been invited for a phone interview that you have the job in the bag. In many cases, it is only a gateway to other interviews.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles