6 phone interview tips to make the right impression

By Robert Half on 15th June 2020

Phone interviews are common for the first-round screening of job candidates. They allow an employer to quickly get a feel for who you are and how you communicate.

Since a phone call will likely be your first chance to make a killer impression, you have to take it seriously and do the prep work.

Commonly-asked phone interview questions

Before your interview, it's a good idea to rehearse some phone interview questions and answers, so you can feel more confident in your delivery.

  • Tell me a little about yourself.

Sometimes, the objective of a phone interview is to convince the interviewer that meeting you in person will be a good use of their time. In responding to this question, it's important not to waffle. Keep your answer brief and highlight aspects of your career that are relevant to the specific role at hand and demonstrate the skills that the interviewer is looking for.

If you're doing the phone interview, your first answer should indicate what attracted you to the opportunity. The interviewer will want to understand why you are looking for work and what attracted you to the role and company. If the phone interview is a preliminary screener, your answer should focus on the opportunities to demonstrate particular skills that this role requires (which you will have gleaned from the job description or advertisement).

Here are six phone interview tips to help you get started:

1. Master the basics

Don't start an interview — in person or via phone or video — without doing some preparation prior to jumping on a call.

Your CV should be within arm's reach to avoid any nerve-induced stumbling over your history and dates of employment. You should have thorough knowledge of your potential employer and a snappy elevator pitch for why you're a great fit. Most importantly, make a connection.

You're a human being, not just a voice at the end of the line, so find a commonality with your interviewer and engage in genuine small talk before you get down to the nitty gritty.

2. Dress for success

The way you dress affects you psychologically: Clothing choice can make a difference in how we're perceived and, just as importantly, in how we perceive ourselves.

Does that mean busting out a business suit for a phone interview? Probably not, but changing the PJs and flip-flops for something more smart isn't a bad idea before you dial in.

3. Set the scene

You need a quiet, distraction-free space for a phone interview. That may mean finding a room in the house and asking the kids not to disturb you. Turn off your call waiting. Close your windows. Listen for unexpected noises and irritations before the call starts. Calling from a landline minimizes the chances of echoes, bad reception and the dreaded dropped call.

4. Mind your voice

Since your interviewer won't be able to see you, pay particular attention to your voice. Speak clearly, take your time and don't forget to smile — facial expressions can be detected in the tone of your voice. Watch how long you talk. It's appropriate to completely answer a question, but there's a difference between elaboration and rambling. Be enthusiastic but genuine; your verbal cues tell the interviewer how interested you are in the position.

You're also more likely to focus during a phone interview if you stand up. Being upright opens your diaphragm, making your voice project and helping your breathing remain steady.

5. Give yourself time

Most phone interviews last 15 or 20 minutes. Unless you're told to expect a longer call, you should allow at least 30 minutes for the conversation.

You don't want to cut the call short or deal with distractions if you go over the projected time. Longer is, after all, probably better.

6. End on a high note

Gratitude is appreciated. At the call's end, thank the interviewer for his or her time. Reiterate your desire to pursue the position and make it clear that you're looking forward to the next step.

Learn from Robert Half’s expert recruiters so you can build a talented team of employees or advance your career. Operating in over 300 locations worldwide, including our Milton Keynes recruitment agencies Robert Half can provide you with assistance where and when you need it.

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