Top 10 Tips on How to Succeed at Telephone Interviews

Love them or loathe them, telephone interviews are often an essential part of the job screening process and, if prepared for correctly, can create a great first impression, getting you to that all important face to face interview.

We asked career coach and ex-recruiter Michelle Baker for her top insider tips on how to maximise your chances of getting through to the next interview round…

“As a recruiter I conducted 1000s of screening calls and I used to get frustrated no end by the complete lack of preparation and enthusiasm shown by some candidates which, unfortunately, ensured they would not be proceeding to the next stage.

So what was I looking for? To be successful in a telephone interview you must first understand why it’s being conducted. I and my colleagues used screening calls simply as a way to filter out candidates who we felt were unsuitable based upon the job description, personality fit and experience required by our clients. Questions would be used in a way to confirm the details on the CV were correct, gaps in the CV could be accounted for, that the experience matched the language used by the individual, the confidence matched the level of experience and the candidate could demonstrate their work in a variety of ways.

The one factor that influenced me above all others was that they expressed a sense of occasion; that this was important, they really wanted the job, they were enthusiastic and even if they didn’t have all the qualifications or experience, they sold themselves to me. In doing so they gave me confidence that they would do a great job of representing not only themselves but also myself and my company.

So you’ve made it through the first part of the screening process and your CV has stood out amongst, possibly, hundreds of others. Well done! That’s a confidence boost right there! You’ve gained a telephone interview, so what’s next? Very simply “fail to prepare and you prepare to fail” (Benjamin Franklin) so follow these tips to increase your chances of getting to that all important face to face interview:

  1. What to wear – have a sense of occasion; this is important to you, right? Never wear PJ’s or dress down clothes… if you feel casual you’ll sound casual. Dress as if you are going to an interview, or at least smartly, and your confidence will be boosted.
  2. Prep your call zone – ensure that during the call you are not going to be interrupted, take the stress away so you can relax knowing no one is listening to you and it’s going to be quiet. Ensure you have a fully charged phone if away from a land line and have a glass of water to hand.
  3. Prepare, prepare, prepare – the level of preparation you do for a face to face is exactly the level you should be doing for the telephone interview; investigate who will be interviewing you if dealing directly with the hiring company, check them out on LinkedIn, what’s the latest about them in the news. Have a copy of your CV and the job description to hand as well as a pad with some questions you would like to ask.
  4. On the job description make notes against each point with examples of your experience – what you achieved, what was your motivation etc. – to act as prompts throughout the interview.
  5. Answer the phone professionally – good morning/afternoon Tom/Sarah speaking. SMILE when you talk as this naturally ensures you sound enthusiastic. Stand up if possible as this will make you feel assertive (even if you don’t) but never pace about.
  6. The one problem on a telephone interview is you can’t see the recruiter’s face so you can’t gauge what they’re thinking. Don’t worry about silences on the call, it’s not your job to fill them and whatever you do don’t waffle -if you feel you are then stop as soon as possible. Remember the 3 Cs – ensure your answers are spoken Clearly, Concisely and with Confidence.
  7. Be prepared for questions around your salary expectations, reasons why you are leaving your current role, length of your notice period, what’s your motivation to move on (if employed), what are your career ambitions.
  8. Prepare questions for your interviewer, using your research; show your enthusiasm for the role by expressing how impressed you’ve been with their current expansion plans for the future (for example). Remember this is your chance to stand out and shine against all other candidates so show what can you give to them, sound interested in what they do, ask questions about the team, the environment, the job. Don’t at this stage include questions around holiday entitlement, pensions etc as this could give the impression that you are only interested in what you can get rather than what you can give. If they haven’t asked you a question that highlights an area you know will impress, tell them before the end of the call.
  9. Before you say goodbye, ensure you’ve expressed your interest in the role. Confirm with them what the remaining recruitment process is, how long before you hear from them, and if you haven’t heard then may you call them. Make a note in your diary to follow this up.
  10. Above all else, thank them for their time and say that you look forward to hearing from them. Follow this up with a brief thank you email confirming your interest.”


Michelle Baker is a career coach who uses her previous experience as a recruiter to help give an insider’s guide to gaining career clarity plus maximising success through the recruitment process. Her business is called Your Career Coach

  • Michael Rainbird

    Thanks for your advice Mervyn, Very helpful and just by reading this has already simplified the stress of a telephone call. 

    Kind Regards

  • Willie Barron

    I recently had a telephone interview and can confirm the general content and tone of the conversation were along the lines described in Michelle’s guide, which I found very useful if a little late for my requirements.I will certainly take on board her advice and use it if and when another opportunity presents itself.

  • Katy

    Really great advice.  I have just been made redundant so this advise is really good to come by :)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much 

    many thanks and kind regards

  • G Dawson2000

    My Telephone interview  was not nice, person on the other end did not ask anything about what was on my cv , what I had done in the passed, and she was typing all the time she was speaking to me, very off putting. It was a large company  and if that’s how it is going I won’t bother .
    Many Thanks

  • Anitaw99

    These are really good guidelines for telephone interviewing, especialy if you ave never been through one before.  I concur with the previous comment that reading these has taken away some of the stress involved in the process.



  • Fatboy

    Simplified tips on handling telephone interviews. Just what the doctor ordered, fantastic.

  • Alan Manchok Li

    thanks you
    in the morning ,i have a very important phone call to grab a £40 k job
    fingers crossed ah ……….

  • Walterhoughton

    thankyou very much for your imput, its a bible for jobseekers! :)

  • Michelle Baker

    Dear All, I’m absolutely delighted these tips have been helpful to you in your career journey.  I appreciate completely though how difficult it can be nowadays to find a new job but you can only do your best, be professional and prepare yourself as much as possible. Please let Mervyn or myself know what top tips you would like to see next and I’ll do my best to accommodate them.  Good luck to all and please let me know if I can be of any assistance.  Warm regards, Michelle.

    • Ianstaples

      Hi Michelle. I will take onboard your advice and hopefully i will be back in employment soon, Thanks for your advice. Regards Ian.  

    • Girish

      How to clear face to face interviews?