It might seem like it is “just a phone interview” but it is a very important step in the way a company assesses your application and your fit for the role. It can increase your chances in getting an in-person interview or end your application all together. You prepare for an in-person interview, so why not prepare for the phone interviews as well?


Here are some of the most frequent phone interview mistakes to avoid:


Not paying attention

It should go without saying but you should not drive while talking on the phone, even if you are on handsfree. The interviewer should have your full attention, so pull over or ask to call back in a few minutes when you aren’t driving. If you are at home, avoid having the TV on or your email open and NEVER eat during the call (trust us, this happens).

If you aren’t at home, do ask for a call back, you don’t want future employer to hear your grocery list or what you ordered in a restaurant.

Preferably you should be in a quiet space where there won’t be too much background noise. Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to schedule another time in the near future if the interview ‘sprung’ on you and it’s not a good time to talk.

Not understanding who you’re talking to

Find out in advance who you will be conducting the phone interview and prepare accordingly. If it’s someone from HR, chances are it will only be a brief screen of about 15-20 minutes. However, if it’s a hiring manager, prepare to have a more in-depth conversation of up to 45 minutes. Look the person up on LinkedIn to make sure you are prepared accordingly.

If you cannot find the information in advance, make sure you pay attention when they introduce themselves to you and know their name, what company they are calling from and also what role you have applied for.

Not answering basic screening questions

Phone interviews are also used to screen candidates on the basics of the job. Be ready to answer questions about salary expectations and availability. If you’re currently employed, make sure you know how much notice you have to give. The employer needs to know if you are a serious and viable candidate for the position.

Not knowing anything about the company or the job

Just like a face-to-face interview, you should do your research about the company and industry. Jump on their website, look at their social media and see if there are any news stories closely related to the company or industry.

Also take the time to read over the job posting again and the key requirements for the role. The benefit of a phone interview is the ability to have information printed in front of you! Keep all this information at hand but highlight those keys so you’re staying on-topic.

Not knowing your resume

As best practice you should be tailoring your resume to each job application. So remember to review the resume and cover letter you sent to this particular company and tie it back to the key requirements you identified above. Remember a phone interview is about screening for candidates who are going to make the best fit for the role. Pull out the most relevant parts and highlight them throughout the conversation.

Not speaking clearly

E-NUN-CI-ATE. There are less visual cues to rely on in a phone interview so pay attention to the tone and clarity of your voice. Focus on the question, speak slowly and pause after your answers. Avoid filling any gaps with ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’.

Not seeming interested

A phone interviewer is not only looking for suitability but also gauging how interested a candidate is in the position. Asking relevant and interesting questions demonstrates interest in the role. Prepare questions in advance as well as overtly stating your interest in continuing in the process. Ask about next steps and restate your appropriateness to the role.

Send a follow up email thanking them for their time, restate your interest and briefly highlight how you will be a great fit.


Things to Remember:

  • Stand up while you speak so you’re not at risk of being too relaxed and informal
  • Have a glass of water nearby
  • Take notes so you can build on the next stage
  • Smile while you talk