March 26, 2018

Phone Interviews 101: What to Know and How to Prepare

Posted by Erik Hankin

Editor’s note: we’ve gone over some basics for interviewing in Eos articles last year (Interviewing 101 and Interviewing 102) and our January webinar. Today, Erik Hankin does a deeper dive on phone interview tactics.

Employers often use phone interviews to screen applicants and help narrow down the candidate pool. Phone interviews are also used to minimize expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates. For remote positions, a phone interview may be the only one you have. In the phone interview, you may speak to a recruiter, an HR representative, or manager for the open position.

How to Prepare

For starters, treat a phone interview like you would an in-person interview. Review the job posting and your resumé and compile a list of your strengths and weaknesses (yes, you do have some) and answers to typical interview questions. Additionally, write down several questions for you to ask the interviewer. Be sure to have these materials with you during the interview as a handy “cheat sheet.”

Doing a practice interview with a friend is a great way to prepare. Credit: Pexels

Practice! Talking on the phone with a stranger for an hour is no piece of cake. Ask a family member or friend to do a mock interview. You can even have them record it, so you get an idea as to how you may come across over the phone, noting any verbal ticks, questions where you stumble, or responses where you speak for too long (a common phone interview mistake).

Review the interview time and details and be physically prepared. If using a cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged. Be ready at least 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled time and prepared to answer the phone. You never want to be late to an in-person interview, and you never want to be away from your phone before a phone interview.

Tips and Etiquette

  • Noise proof your space. Clear the room of any noise-causing items (i.e. people, pets, etc.) and make sure no outside noise can be heard.
  • Have your resumé and “cheat sheet” in front of you so that you can reference them during the interview.
  • Answer the phone yourself. Let anyone else in the household know that you are expecting an interview call. The interviewer doesn’t want to speak to your weird roommate, Larry.
  • Give your full name when answering. “Hello, this is Jane Smith” sounds much more professional than just “Hello?”
  • Smile! Sure, the interviewer can’t see you, but you’ll be in a friendly state of mind and permeate to your conversation.

    That’s right, Fido. Smiling is key to coming across friendly over the phone. Too bad you can’t talk. Credit: Pixabay

  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer. If you do by accident, be sure to stop and apologize.
  • Speak clearly and at a reasonable pace.
  • Keep your answers brief. Without eye contact and facial cues, it’s easier to accidentally ramble.
  • Take your time. It’s perfectly okay to take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before responding to a question. If you think you’ll need more than a few seconds, give the interviewer a heads up that you need to ponder the question for a moment.
  • Have a glass of water handy. This will help if you get a throat tickle or cough and can also help you collect your thoughts.


Before the interview concludes, make sure you ask the interviewer for his/her email address, if you don’t already have it. Send an email thank you note the same day, thanking the interviewer and reiterating your interest in the position. You can also use the thank you note as an opportunity to clarify any answers you think you stumbled on or qualifications you didn’t get a chance to note, just do so succinctly. You can review some tips on thank you notes in an earlier On the Job post.

Erik Hankin is the Student & Career Programs Manager at AGU.