Telephone Interview Dos and Don’ts

*phone rings*
Answers in pretend Australian accent: ‘G’day mate. Wazzuuuuup?’
‘Hello there, my name is Ms. Whitaker, calling from Unites Ltd. Am I speaking with Matthew Thomas?’
Answers in normal voice: ‘Yes… Yes, you are… Hi there… Really sorry about that…’

Telephone interviews can be tough, navigating your interviewer’s expressions solely by listening to their vocal tones you may have next to no indication of how the interview is going. They occur when your job application has been successful, and the company are considering taking you through to the next stage of employment. It can help them weed out the applicants who are not right for the role. With most telephone interviews they’re scheduled ahead of time, which means you can ensure you are fully prepared. However, sometimes they may spring a call upon you, which is why it’s important to always be expecting one and not answer the phone with an unprofessional voice…

There are benefits, however, to the dreaded phone interview like having notes with you to refer to, and the interviewer not able to see your face of panic when they ask a question you weren’t expecting. 

With this list of DO’s and DO NOT’s you should be on your way to a successful phone interview and the usual next step: a face-to-face meeting.


  • Prepare.

Research the company you will be working for and prepare a list of questions you have about the company – this will ensure you come across as keen and genuinely interested in what the company do. Have a glass of water to hand, if you feel your throat is getting dry: take a quiet sip. Prepare notes, including your CV and job experience, the company research, your list of questions, and have these at your side.

  • Say positive affirmations.

Before the phone call is scheduled, it helps your confidence to write down reasons why you would be good at this job, why you deserve this job, and feel confident in those reasons. Remind yourself what you are good at and focus on the positives. If you truly don’t believe in these, your interviewer may have a hard time believing it too.

  • Practise before hand.

Get friends or family members to practise the interview with you or, alternatively, write down questions you expect and your responses. You could record your voice and notice nervous ticks and habits which you could try to avoid doing in the real thing.

During the interview…

  • Ask questions.

The interviewer will be wanting a candidate who is keen and thirsty for knowledge about the company. Refer to your list of questions, but try to notice opportunities within the interview to ask for further explanation or development of what the interviewer is saying about the job role, etc.

  • Refer to notes.

There will be questions about your work experience and the dates you were posted, and more details you may not remember off the bat, so it is certainly handy to have these on stand-by.

  • Adopt confident body language.

It may seem silly to do (because the interviewer cannot see you), but studies have shown that adopting “power stances” can alter a person’s state of mind prior to an important meeting. It all comes down to feeling confident, and if you feel it then the case to show it becomes a lot easier. You could also wear smart clothing, this may help to get you in the professional mode.

  • Take notes.

As the interview goes along, be sure you do take your own notes. These can be referred back to later in the phone call. If it’s a success, there may be important “next-steps” told to you at the end so it is important you note these down.

Now, onto the do not’s. Some of these may seem a little obvious, but it is worth saying them.


  • Be in a busy place.

Ideally, you want to be in a place with minimal distractions, so not a busy city café. Background noise will take away from the sound quality. 

  • Be on low battery.

Make sure your phone is fully charged, whether it’s a landline or a mobile the last thing you want is to run out of battery half way through.

  • Try to seem laid back.

Although confidence is key, keenness is admired by the interviewer. You want to come across as interested in the company, not arrogant and unphased. 

  • Pretend you’ve heard what they said when you haven’t.

Do not be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves, they would rather that than you ramble on about something off topic because you misheard.

  • Interrupt.

Just don’t. For obvious reasons. Wait, listen, and then compose an answer.

  • Fill pauses with ums and ahs.

Instead, take a moment to pause and construct your reply. It’s okay to take a moment but um-ing and ah-ing can make you sound clumsy and panicked.

  • Read directly from your notes.

Quoting word-for-word from your prepared notes is not going to sound genuine to the interview. Rather, be inspired by them. Notice how I’ve used the word “note” instead of “essay”: it might be an idea to keep your notes short and bullet-pointed to avoid you reeling off long and rehearsed replies.

  • Eat, drink loudly, smoke, be under the influence of drugs (it goes without saying)…

In conclusion, be prepared, be positive, be sensible, and last but not least:

  • Breathe.

Take your time, remain calm, and compose yourself. You are good enough for this job, and you will nail this phone interview.

Post by Lucy Barka

Lucy is a student at the University of Birmingham