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The objective of a telephone interview for a candidate is to share enough information with the client to either be asked for a second phone interview or to receive an invitation for an onsite interview. A second objective for the candidate is to get your initial questions about the job and company answered.


You should allow up to one (1) hour for a phone interview. Find a quiet private location to conduct the interview where distractions and interruptions are at a minimum. Have the following available during the interview:
  • A copy of the version of the resume sent to the interviewer
  • A notepad and pen
  • Five or six carefully worded questions you'll want to ask
  • Company literature with pertinent sections highlighted

The Interview

Begin the interview by thanking the client for taking a few minutes to speak with you.

Phone Personality

The need to make a good impression on the phone cannot be overemphasized. The telephone screening interview is a make-or-break proposition, your one chance to convince the interviewer that you are worth serious consideration. The interviewer will be listening carefully to determine three factors: your sincere interest in the job, how you verbalize your qualifications and how aggressively you pursue the position.

Voice reflects personality. A well-modulated, controlled voice communicates authority and heightens the verbal impact you want to make. The quality, pitch, and tempo of your speech convey a confident attitude, energy level and enthusiasm.

Here are some practical tips to enhance your phone "personality" and overall presentation:

Talk directly into the mouthpiece. Hold the receiver approximately three inches from the mouth, not below your chin or above your nose. Speak in a relaxed, conversational style as though the other person was in the same room, not on the other side of the planet.

Avoid sitting in a hunched position, grasping the phone in a vise-like grip. These behaviors will add a note of stress, and your voice will communicate that uneasiness. Try standing, it opens your diaphragm to a smoother airflow and imparts a feeling of liveliness. Getting up and moving around introduces an element of action, which instills a relaxed, conversational manner and reduces fatigue. A longer cord or cordless phone will allow maximum mobility. Ensure that your cordless phone is fully charged!

Sound upbeat. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious and very important. Smile to show a sense of humor. After all, the interviewer may have had a bad day too.

Be a conversationalist. Listen carefully to get the big picture and to avoid saying something that indicates any momentary mental distraction. Allow the interviewer to complete questions without you finishing his train of thought or blurting out answers prematurely.

Handle any trick questions in stride. The interviewer may throw in several to test your alertness or mental keenness. Showing verbal adeptness is a sign of how quickly you can "think on your feet." Be cautious: the interviewer may say something that puzzles you or that you firmly disagree with, Show enough respect to voice your thoughts in a professional manner. A defensive posture or argumentative tone is the surest way to alienate the interviewer and eliminate your candidacy.

The Telephone Interview

Establishing rapport at the beginning of the phone conversation sets a favorable tone. During the first few minutes, mention something that shows the commonality of interest or similarity in the background. This helps both parties feel more comfortable as the conversation progresses.

Get to know the person behind the voice. Does he show a sense of humor? Is she direct and forthright in supplying information? Does his speech sound "canned," or does it exhibit freshness of thought and expression? Just as importantly, does she actively listen to you, or merely wait for the chance to ask her next question? The interviewer may be a personnel official or a hiring manager. If the individual is someone with whom you will be working, pay all the more attention to her explanation of the job and what potential it offers.

Your prepared list of questions will indicate that you have given careful thought to the prospect of joining the firm. Even though you don't know everything about the position at this point, convey the impression that it's something you are interested in and competent at handling.

Only in a face-to-face interview can you sell yourself. The purpose of the phone interview is to identify areas of mutual interest that warrant further investigation. In other words, whet their curiosity and give them good reasons for wanting to invite you to the company location.

What the interviewer needs to hear and conclude is that you can get the job done. Mentally, he is making the connection between the company's problems and you as a problem solver. Don't overwhelm him with facts and figures; he's only going to remember so much.

You can best make your point by reciting memorable stories that document your ability to analyze a dilemma, weigh alternative responses and choose the appropriate action. By selectively highlighting turnaround situations you spearheaded, you are communicating a willingness to tackle similar problems for your company.

As the conversation winds down, become less talkative and give more thought to what you say. Your final words will generally have greater impact and be remembered longer. Careful word choice and voice inflection will underscore the significance of your remarks. By contrast, a machine-gun volley of words will likely put the listener on the defensive or turn him off altogether.

By the end of the phone conversation, both parties should know how much of a "fit" there is. Provided the job interests you, express your desire to proceed to the next step: a company visit. End the conversation on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for the information shared and again let her know that you look forward to visiting his/her company.


After the phone interview has finished, call your recruiter and give them feedback. Share the following information with them:
  • With whom did you speak? Names and titles.
  • What was the content of the discussion?
  • Did you discuss salary?
  • Are you interested in pursuing this opportunity any further?
  • What did they say about next steps?

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