Phone Interviews: Advice & Tips


In the age of social distancing, businesses are working as hard as they can, whenever and wherever possible, to continue providing early career opportunities for young people. In doing so, they are turning to methods such as phone interviewing as a useful alternative to inviting candidates for face-to-face interviews.

When it comes to recruiting the right person for the job, phone interviews have long been a popular tool for employers and training providers. For many years, they’ve often used phone interviews to carry out an initial screening – typically this involves carrying out a few basic checks and getting to know you a bit, before the employer decides whether to invite you to their workplace for a more formal interview.

However, with the government putting new measures in place to tackle the outbreak of COVID-19, it’s likely that phone interviews – as well as video interviews – will become a much more vital part of the recruitment process. You may even find that employers will be looking to hire someone off the back of a single phone interview. It’s now more important than ever to not underestimate the power of the phone interview!

If the pre-phone interview nerves are getting to you, it’s even more important to remember this: it’s totally fine and normal to be anxious before, and even during an interview. Not everyone thrives when being put on the spot over the phone and employers are fully aware of this, especially if they’re calling you without arranging a time with you beforehand. What matters to them is how you handle those nerves and present yourself over the phone.

Need some advice and tips to smash that phone interview and bag yourself a second meeting with that interviewer you’re looking to impress? We’ve got you covered!

What should I have with me for my phone interview?

It’s always good to have a physical copy of your CV within easy reach, as interviewers can often refer to it during the call. It’s good practice to have something to take notes with too, a pen and a piece of paper would be fine. Try and keep anything which will distract you during the interviews – no tablets, no consoles, no unnecessary glaring screens!

Where should I do my phone interview?

Wherever you choose to do your phone interview, make sure that you are comfortable. It’s important to find somewhere quiet and where you’re not likely to be interrupted. If you do your phone interview at home and you live with other people, you may want to let them know that you’re doing the phone interview – hopefully you live with someone nice enough to give you the peace and quiet you’ll need!

How should I deal with any interruptions to my interview?

If you do find yourself interrupted during the interview – let’s say that you hear the doorbell ring and you’re the only person home – the best thing you can do is continue with the interview and deal with whoever is ringing your doorbell when you’ve finished the interview. However, if it is unavoidable – for example, you’re a vulnerable person expecting a food delivery or prescription to arrive – finish the point you’re making and politely ask the interviewer if they may excuse you for a moment. If they approve, mute your microphone, calmly deal with the interruption and return to the interview as quickly as possible.

It’d be even better practice for you to let the interviewer know at the start of the call that you’re expecting this interruption, and to check before the interview starts that this is okay with them. Whatever you do, don’t forget to apologise for the interruption and say thank you to the interviewer for waiting!

Should I do the interview on my mobile or landline phone?

Depending on the phone numbers you’ve put at the top of your CV, interviewers will often call you on your mobile phone in case you’re not home at the time. However, you’re less likely to be attacked by the Low Signal Gremlins if you do the interview on a landline phone (if you have one).

What should I wear?

Obviously your employer will not be able to see you during your phone interview, so this one is your call. However, you may find that dressing in smarter attire makes you feel more focussed and puts you in a more professional mindset for the interview than if you were sat chatting to the interviewer while still in your pyjamas or a pair of trackies.

How should I talk during my phone interview?

It is important to speak as clearly as you can during the interview, especially if phone signal is a little bit patchy, but it’s just as important to just be yourself! Talk in a way that is comfortable for you while remaining professional and polite. Nobody is expecting you to be speaking the Queen’s English, but at the same time avoid colloquial language and slang words as much as you can.

When you’re nervous, you’re much more likely to talk faster, and it’ll sound like you’re rushing or even panicking. If you feel conscious of tripping over your words or muddling up your speech, it’s totally okay to pause and take a deep breath before continuing. This will help you articulate your speech and talk at a slower, more regular pace.

Here are some more hints and tips to help you excel in your phone interview:

  • Try not to talk too much: the interviewer is not interested in your life story, unless they have actually asked for it. Keep your answer brief but not blunt, and feel free to add any extra points you’d like to make as long as they’re relevant to the question you’ve just been asked.
  • It’s okay to ask for a moment to think of an answer to a question: unlike in a face-to-face or video interview, you are unable to communicate through body language. If you need a few extra seconds to form a response that you’ll be personally satisfied with, it’s better to ask the interviewer for this as opposed to ‘umm’-ing and ‘err’-ing down the phone.
  • Be aware that the interviewer may be making notes throughout the call: this is very common in phone interviews, and as a result there may be a brief delay before the interviewer responds to your answer or asks their next question.
  • If the employer has asked you to call them for your interview, check before calling that you have plenty of credit on your mobile phone: Phone interviews can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, or maybe even longer depending on how intensive the employer’s screening process is. If your phone cuts out halfway through the interview because you used up all your minutes chatting to your friend for 3 hours the night before, then you’re only going to embarrass yourself!
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged: this goes without saying but remember to charge your mobile for the above reasons.
  • If you experience bad phone signal during a phone interview and you can’t fully hear a question from the interview, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question for you: the interviewer should be considerate of this and that bad signal is (for the most part) out of your control.
  • If you know who the employer is before the interview, do your research! Look through their website and social media platforms and take note of some basic facts about the employer and the product/service that they provide.
  • Have you been invited to a video interview by an employer or training provider? Click here to check out our blog full of advice and tips to help you excel in that interview!

    Further reading around Covid-19 and early careers:

  • Will Covid-19 change the application process?
  • Will Covid-19 change the format of job interviews?
  • Advice & Tips