Succeeding in a Phone Interview

Interviews can be a multistep process that starts with a phone interview. This is often a preliminary screening conducted by someone in a recruiting or HR department, but it might also be with a manager or supervisor. Whomever you’re scheduled to speak with, treat it with the same level of professionalism. If you don’t pass the phone screening, you most likely won’t advance to an in-person interview.

The phone interview generally entails going over some of your work and education background, in addition to a more in-depth explanation of the job and company. They might ask you some of the traditional job interview questions, such as why you’re interested in the role. Being prepared for a phone interview is similar to an in-person interview—be sure you’ve done some research and always ask questions at the end of the conversation.

While in-person and phone interviews share many similarities, they differ greatly in other ways.

There are a handful of upsides and challenges to the phone interview that play off each other. Below we take a look at a few of the variables.

For starters, you’re on the phone.

Upside: You don’t have to worry about wearing a professional outfit, or blotting sweat on your forehead, or wonder if you’re fidgeting too much. It’s a moment of respite from the otherwise demanding interview environment.

Challenge: Well, you’re on the phone. This means listening and speaking skills must be operating at full force. You can’t see the other person’s facial expressions and they can’t see yours, so everything you say must be communicated clearly, including not cutting the other person off when they’re speaking. This is the first impression in the entire interview process, so everything you say matters.


Upside: If you’re on the job hunt, assume you will get a call at some point regarding your application. You can prepare by having a greeting ready, including having your personal pitch memorized. Consider answering the phone more professionally, such as, “Hello. This is (your name) speaking.” It’s a little bit more professional than just, “Hi?”

Challenge: The real challenge here is not knowing exactly when you’ll get a call. You might be in the middle of running errands or working on another project. If you get a call while you’re busy, don’t answer the phone sounding flustered and distracted. It’s okay to let a call go to voicemail—be sure your voicemail is set up and is professional—and call the recruiter or HR representative back in a timely fashion.

Following Up
Upside: You can take rigorous notes during a phone interview, which isn’t as easy to do during an in-person interview since you don’t want to appear distracted. Write down everything the company representative tells you and even the questions you were asked. If you’re called in for an in-person interview, you might be asked the same questions, so it’s helpful to remember how you answered and how you can expand on that more. Same with an in-person interview, you want to send a thank-you email after the conversation ends.

Challenge: You might not have as much time to prepare for a phone interview as you would for an in-person. Maybe there’s something you forgot to say on the phone. Never worry—you can mention it in a thank-you email. Additionally, you might not have the email address of the person you spoke to on the phone. You can look up the company, call a general line or a corporate number, and ask for the email address of the person you spoke with, letting a receptionist know you just had a phone interview and you would like to follow up.

Do you want to practice your interview skills? You can visit a no-cost Goodwill Career Center and ask a career advisor for assistance. Call 602-535-4444 to find a center near you or visit our locations page. Good luck with your job search!

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