Saint Louis University

Employers use telephone interviews as a way of identifying and recruiting candidates for employment. Phone interviews are often used as a way to minimize the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates or even as a pre-screening for in-town firms and companies. It is important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moment's notice. You never know when a recruiter might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk.

Think about your voice mail message. Is it professional? Is your name or phone number in the message so the caller knows they have reached the intended person? Return the call as SOON as possible.
Do your homework on the company as you would for an in person interview. Prepare your questions.

Be Prepared
Prepare for a phone interview just as you would for a regular interview. Compile a list of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as a list of answers to typical interview questions.

  • Dress for the interview. Some even suggest dressing just as you would in a face-to-face interview as it will improve your confidence and poise.
  • Keep your resume in clear view, on top of your desk, or tape it to the wall near the phone, so it is at your fingertips when you need to answer questions.
  • Have a short list of your accomplishments available to review.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for note taking.
  • Take the call in a place where you will not be interrupted.
  • Clear the room - evict the kids and the pets. Turn off the stereo and the TV. Close the door.
  • If you use your cell phone, make sure you are some place where you have good cell reception -- the last thing you want is a "dropped call" during an important interview; make sure your cell phone is fully charged.
  • Remember to smile. Smiling will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
  • Do not smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.
  • Do keep a glass of water handy.

During the interview

  • Speak slowly and enunciate clearly.
  • Stand up. It gets your blood flowing, improves your posture, and improves your response time. Some people also feel like they think better on their feet.
  • Use the person's title (Mr. or Ms. and their last name.)Only use a first name if they ask you to do so.
  • Do not interrupt the interviewer.
  • If there are multiple interviewers, try to keep track of who is asking the question. When one interviewer asks you a question, clarify who asked the question so you can direct your response to that person (see more tips regarding multiple interviewers below).
  • Practice with a friend - it is hard to know how your voice comes across on the phone. Are you a low-talker? Do you talk too fast? Is it easy to understand you?
  • Have questions prepared for the interviewer(s).
  • Take your time - it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to collect your thoughts.
  • Give short answers, but avoid "Yes" and "No" answers.
  • Compensation issues come at the end of the interviewing cycle, never at the telephone stage. You can truthfully say you don't know enough about the job to state a salary figure. And, of course, you would need a personal interview to really talk with the company. Which is another way to go for the personal interview. Re-affirm your qualifications, express your interest in the job and the company. Say you would appreciate the opportunity to talk about the job further - in person


  • At the end of the conversation be sure to thank the interviewer and ask what the next step is.
  • Follow up with a thank you note IMMEDIATELY.