Phone Interview Tips (And How To Do A Great Phone Interview)

By Ryan Morris
Nov. 30, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

Conducting phone interviews, or “phone screening,” is a common preliminary step for companies trying to weed out lesser job applicants. In-person interviews are still typically the final step in the process, but phone screening offers a simple, quick, and convenient option for hiring managers looking to get the best applicant, since they can be done from almost anywhere.

For you, the applicant, there’s a whole new set of challenges that come with speaking to someone over the phone, but if you’re careful and plan ahead, you might end up finding more advantages than disadvantages in the medium.

Key Takeaways:

  • To conduct a phone interview, make sure to prepare by doing your research on the company, as well as have your resume and cover letter ready.

  • Use the STAR method when answering questions about past work experiences.

  • Listen and smile during the phone interview to give better answers.

  • Take notes during the interview to use during your follow-up thank you, as well as a resource for future interviews.

Phone Interview Tips (And How To Do A Great Phone Interview)

How To Do A Great Phone Interview

Having a successful phone interview is all about sticking to a process. Phone interviews normally last around 15 minutes, so it is easy to set yourself up for success by using this framework.

  1. Prepare.

    One of the biggest advantages you have in any phone interview is your ability to keep your application materials on hand at all times.

    Some good ways to prepare for an interview:

    • Research the company beforehand. This will help keep you from asking questions that you could easily answer yourself. Keep this information on hand, and it might help to summarize parts of it on note cards for your own personal use.

    • Have your resume and cover letter open in front of you. Again, they will certainly have this information on hand, so even if you’re reasonably confident in your ability to recall what you originally wrote down, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t at least have it nearby in case of an emergency.

    • Have numbers ready. In case they ask, have some numbers in mind as far as your previous salaries and your compensation expectations for the position to which you’re applying. They might not bring it up, but if they do, you probably don’t want to be coming up with those on the spot.

    Whatever you do, make sure you have all reference materials on hand before the interviewer calls.

  • Pick an appropriate environment.

    Another big advantage is in your ability to control your own environment. Treat this interview like you’re doing it in person, and remove all distractions from the area in which you’re working.

    If at all possible, use a personal, private space rather than a coffee shop or co-working space, in order to reduce noise pollution and ensure that you won’t be interrupted.

    In the event that there are any animals in your house, make sure you put them outside or in a different room — the last thing you want is a cute little guy running up to you and wrecking your flow. No matter how cute said little guy might be.

    Clear your space, and clear your mind. Find your center. And have a glass of water handy in case you’re mouth gets dry.

    Then sit and wait for the call.

  • Do the interview.

    Make sure you introduce yourself clearly, in such a way to imply that you were anticipating and ready for the interview.

    • Be natural and professional. Speak clearly and enunciate, but try not to focus too hard on doing so. You don’t want to sound unnatural or robotic. Keep the tone as conversational as you can — just be sure that your interviewer can hear and understand you.

    • Be clear and concise with your answers. It’s really just a matter of whether you actually prepared for the questions you’re going to be asked. Again, it’s a really good idea to have your resume and other application materials on hand here.

    • Use the STAR Method. The STAR method is great to answer behavioral questions about past experiences. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, where you describe a situation, what you were tasked to do, what actions you took, and what the result was.

      It is a great framework to build your answer around because it follows a logical progression from beginning to end. Using the STAR method will help keep your answers clear, concise, and relevant.

    Beyond that, everything else is just about having basic social skills. But that’s a whole other article.

  • Follow up with thank you.

    That’s it! You killed it, probably. And if not, you’ll certainly have a better idea of how much you need to have prepared for next time.

    It’s a balancing act, after all. Some people are just naturally good at improvisation, and if they have great memories to boot, they’ll have an easy time with interviews of any stripe or color. Everyone else just has to learn to balance out their weaknesses with the appropriate level of prep work.

    Now that you’ve had your phone interview, you want to make sure that you follow up appropriately with a good thank-you letter or email.

  • Phone Interview Tips

    1. Confirm the time and reschedule if needed. Treat a phone interview like you would a normal interview — set aside time in your day before and after. If you have a lot going on, consider setting a reminder on your phone for 30-45 minutes before your scheduled interview time.

      If something comes up or if the first time the employer suggests doesn’t work for you, get in contact with the recruiter to reschedule as soon as possible. Being proactive and paying attention to detail are great qualities for a job candidate.

    2. Charge your phone. Pretty simple one here; if you’re using a cell phone, make sure you’re at 100% battery and/or plugged into a power source. If your phone call is happening on an app rather than a normal call, make sure whatever app you’re using is up-to-date and working properly.

    3. Know your interviewer. Try to find out if you’ll be talking to a recruiter, a hiring manager, or your actual potential boss. Who you’re talking to changes how you prepare.

      A recruiter will probably ask you more general questions about your experience, while a direct supervisor will get into the nitty-gritty of the job’s responsibilities.

      Your word choice during the interview itself should also change depending on who you’re speaking to. Reduce your level of industry jargon if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

    4. Listen and smile. Some people get nervous and talk a whole lot during phone interviewers. But it’s equally important to actively listen to your interviewer and make sure you answer their questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the person to repeat themselves if you don’t understand what they’re saying the first time.

      And, yes, you should smile during a phone interview, even if nobody can see you. Your tone of voice naturally changes when you’re smiling, and you’ll come across as more positive and engaged if you put on your happy face.

    5. Take notes. When it comes time to send that follow-up email, you’ll want to reference at least one moment from the interview itself. That’s where note-taking comes in handy.

      Plus, some information you’ll receive during a phone interview will be vital for boosting your chances at success during the next round of interviews.

      Review these notes and use them to come up with compelling and thoughtful questions. Not to mention that the interviewer’s answers should help you decide if this company is one you’d like to work for.

    6. Practice. If you’ve never done a phone interview before, try performing a mock interview beforehand. Send a friend some common interview questions and ask them to call you and behave as the interviewer. It can be a little awkward, but when the real thing comes around, you’ll feel more comfortable having practiced.

    7. Prepare answers to the most common interview questions. We don’t recommend writing a script for interview answers to the most common questions, but it’s not a bad idea to have a list of bullet points for the ones you expect to come up. That way, you can be sure to hit the key talking points while still coming across as natural.

    The Do’s And Dont’s Of A Phone Interview

    Along with the process and tips above to consider, make sure to be aware of what to do and what not to do in a phone interview.


    • Be polite and respectful.

    • Sit up straight.

    • Take your time listening and answering.


    • Have any distractions (TV, phone, roommates, etc…)

    • Chew or eat.

    • Interrupt.

    It may seem pretty obvious, but it is good to remind yourself that this phone interview is your first step to getting the job. That means you need to treat the situation with the same respect as you would any regular job interview.

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    Ryan Morris

    Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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    Topics: Get The Job, Resume