The Ultimate Guide to a Successful Phone Interview

By TERRA Staffing Group

Posted on April 2, 2020

Smiling young woman on a phone interviewJob interviews are changing. Hiring managers are increasingly moving away from in-person meetings and beginning to conduct more virtual and phone interviews.

Doing this makes sense from a business standpoint. These styles of interviews save time and help hiring managers screen candidates more efficiently.

But for job seekers, anything other than an in-person interview may feel stressful or confusing.

Don’t worry – we’re here to help!

Recently, we shared tips for how to prepare for a virtual job interview. Today we want to help you nail that phone interview.

We’ll share why phone interviews are important, how to plan for a phone interview, phone etiquette reminders, and interview best practices. We’ll even provide a few bonus tips to ensure you are set up for success.

Why Phone Interviews Should Be Taken Seriously

You may think that a phone interview is simple and nothing to over-concern yourself with. They are less high-tech than virtual interviews and you don’t have to worry about things like handshakes, posture and eye contact, like you would for an in-person interview.

However, while phone-interviews may seem less high-stakes, trust us, they are just as important – and, in fact, even more challenging than traditional interviews.


In person, and even virtually, you have more potential to connect with or impress your interviewer.

Think about it. Not only can they hear you, they can see you – your facial expressions, what you’ve chosen to wear to the interview, how you carry yourself, etc.

Over the phone, they can only hear you. Your interview is riding on your tone, your voice, your answers… You really can’t afford to have any detractors.

That’s why, if you want to increase your chances of having a successful phone interview, preparation is going to be key.

Pre-Phone Interview Planning

Some of your interview’s success depends on how you plan. Thought has to be put into the logistics of your phone interview, before it happens.

Pick a location for your phone interview that is distraction-free.

There are many possible distractions that could negatively impact your interview. We’ll focus on two: noise and people.

Choose a quiet location, preferably at home. This will help control background noise. Phone interviews in public places, like cafes, may seem fine in theory, but in reality, they can be disruptive – not only to you, but to the interviewer as well.

Unless you are interviewing on a lunch break or some other type of work break, do it at home.

Speaking of noise, make sure you have no music playing in the background and that the TV or any streaming devices are turned off.

Lastly, ensure that there’s no one around that can distract you. This means children, pets, spouses, or roommates. Let the (human) members of your household know about your interview and keep the pets away during the designated interview time.

Test your phone – and your location – for quality reception.

Cell phone reception isn’t always great. Calls drop. That is why it’s important that you test your technology before your interview – specifically in the room or area you plan to interview from.

Call a friend or family member. Ask them if they can hear you clearly. Ensure that the connection is good and consistent.

If you have a landline at home, consider using that as connections are usually more reliable.

Avoid putting your interviewer on speaker. You may sound far away to them, and it may impact how well you hear as well. If you want to be handsfree during the call, use a headset or headphones – but be sure to test it in advance.

Remember, since the hiring manager can’t see you, being able to hear you clearly, and for you to be able to hear them clearly is incredibly important.

Important Phone Etiquette Reminders

Here are some basic phone etiquette reminders to help you with your phone interview:

Know the time and date of the call.

While some employers and recruiters may be willing to reschedule, missing the call is a surefire way to leave a hiring manager unimpressed. So, make sure you have the call on your calendar, and a reminder set.  Same rules apply if they are expecting you to call them – and make sure you’re not late!

Don’t eat food or chew gum while you are on the phone.

You’ve heard the saying, “don’t talk with your mouth full.” This applies to phone calls – and even more so with phone interviews. Save the chewing for later.

Make sure you are the one who answers the phone.

People sharing cell phones isn’t uncommon and anyone who is home can potentially answer a landline. Inform those who need to know about your interview and let them know when it’s scheduled for. Be sure you are there to take the call.


People have a tendency to talk fast or mumble, especially if they are nervous. Be mindful of your speed and put conscious effort into articulating everything you say. Speaking a little slower may not feel entirely normal to you, but the person on the other end of the phone will appreciate the clarity – and they will think you are more thoughtful and intentional with your words.

Don’t talk over the interviewer.

Wait until questions are completed before jumping in with an answer. It’s polite, shows patience and gives you time to put together meaningful answers.

Prepare as You Would for an In-Person Interview

A phone interview is no less real an interview than an in-person one. Make sure you are prepared.

Research the employer beforehand.

There are many reasons why researching an employer before an interview is a good idea. Not only will you feel informed for the interview, it will help you make an informed decision about whether the employer is the right fit for you. And you can have any notes on hand in case you need to reference it during your phone interview.

Have a copy of your resume in front of you.

Your interviewer will have a copy of your resume in front of them during your phone interview. You should, too. After all, you will be asked specific questions about your work history and details may slip your mind. Having a copy of your resume will help you out in a pinch.

Have something to take notes with/on.

It’s always helpful to take notes during an interview. Your interviewer might share an important piece of information or something may pop out at you that you might either want to reference or research later. Keep a pen and paper nearby, or your laptop.

Prepare questions to ask during or at the end of your interview.

Coming up with questions to ask during a phone interview on the spot is hard. Be prepared. Have a list of questions you want to ask. If you need help coming up with questions, think about what you want out of a job. Think about what you need to be successful. What would make an opportunity your right fit?

Be able to articulate your work experience.

And be able to provide specific examples to back it up. Think about specific experiences in your work history that you’d like to highlight: achievements, awards, moments of learning, moments of leadership or teamwork, moments that demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving, etc.


Consider practice-interviewing or answering questions with a friend – ideally over the phone. The more you practice, the better you’ll sound, and the more confident, and competent, you’ll be!

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Bonus Phone Interview Tips for Success

Here are a few more tips that can increase your chances of a successful phone interview.

Consider dressing up for the interview.

It will help you get into the right mindset. After all, the interview may be over the phone, but it’s not any less of a real interview. Dressing professionally might do wonders for your confidence!


They say people can hear a smile and it’s true. When you smile, the tone of your voice changes. Since you don’t have the benefit of being in person, or even on video, this helps your interviewer perceive you as friendly. The added bonus for you is that smiling helps reduce stress, which will in turn help you feel more relaxed during the interview.

Send a thank-you note after your phone interview.

Thank-you notes never go out of style and are a great way to reiterate interest in a job and stay top of mind. Decide whether you want to send a thank-you email or thank-you card, but do send a thank-you message to your interviewer.

Following the tips above will increase your chances of having a successful phone interview and will go a long way in making a positive impression on your interviewer.

How TERRA Can Help You

If you are looking for more interview tips, check out our blog. We have lots of great content designed to help job seekers and working professionals with their careers.

And if you’re currently searching for employment, contact us.

We’d love to help you find the right fit.

Categories: Career Tips

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