Great Tips for Telephone Interviews
By Wendy Terwelp
1. Get Organized!
a. Change your answering machine or voice mail message
to reflect professionalism. Mention your name, number
and time you'll be available to return calls. "Thank you
for calling the Smith residence, 414-555-1234. Please
leave your name, number and a brief message. I will be
available to return calls from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m."
b. Create file folders for each of the places you
submitted your resume (both snail-mail or online). Print
out the job listing and list the date you sent your
resume, the website you responded to (or however you
heard about the job), and the contact's name and title
(if it's listed in the ad). If you modified your resume
in response to the ad, keep a copy with the file.
c. Print out any information you found on the employer
via their website or related resources so you can refer
to it during the interview.
d. Keep all this near your phone at all times. You may
not always be able to predict what time they will call.
e. If possible, try to set up a specific time for the
phone interview through an e-mail contact. (Such as:
Best times to contact me are from x to x.) That way
you'll have an approximate timeline.
f. Let your family members know about potential
telephone interview(s). They can then answer the phone
professionally: "Hello, Smith residence, Fred speaking."
g. Have a PEN and NOTEPAD ready. The notepad should have
at least 3 questions you want to ask the interviewer
about. You'll also use the notepad to take notes during
your interview, clarify points, or ask questions later
during the "So, do you have any questions for me?"
portion of the interview. Get the interviewer's name,
title and contact information. Name of the company
offering the job (if you are working with a recruiter).
Job title and responsibilities (brief but specific).
Relocation details (if necessary). You may wish to
create a form with the standard contact information on
it and use this for each phone interview. Your notes
will also be a great point of reference for your
h. Have your resume in front of you. Should they ask you
to elaborate on a point, you will be ready to supply
2. Keep Distractions Away!
a. Eliminate call waiting during your job search. Call
waiting is very distracting to an interviewer. Use voice
mail during your search time, so you won't miss a call..
b. Put your interview information and telephone in a
spare room that has a door.
3. Be Yourself!
a. Try to relax. Take some deep breaths before picking
up the phone..
b. SMILE when answering the phone and speaking to the
interviewer. This keeps you sounding enthusiastic and
c. Give concrete examples when able (use your
achievement section on the resume to aid you with
d. Respond to the interviewer's questions, but don't
volunteer information that hasn't been asked. (No
e. Repeat the question if you are not clear.
4. Make a Quick Decision!
a. If the opportunity does not sound interesting to you
the more you learn about it, politely decline and say
that it does not sound like a good fit. If you are
talking to a recruiter, mention to him/her what IS a
b. If the opportunity does sound fantastic, try to land
the in-person interview.
5. Land the In-person Interview!
a. Be positive at all times! Never bad-mouth a previous
b. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity. Mention how
your skills match their needs.
c. Ask to schedule the interview. "This position sounds
like a perfect fit. Can we schedule a time to meet and
discuss this further?"
6. Send a thank-you/follow-up note!
a. You can do this via e-mail or snail-mail. If
responding to an online position, e-mail your thank-you
b. Keep it short (one or two paragraphs).
c. Thank them for their time. Mention one or two things
you learned during the phone interview. Reiterate how
your skills match what they're looking for. Tell them
you are very excited about working for them and are
capable to do the job. Address any points requested by
d. If you already scheduled an in-person interview, tell
the interviewer you are looking forward to the interview
on ______(day) at _____ (time).
e. Send a follow-up note to all phone interviews, even
if you don't take the position. It's always a good
practice to thank people for their time.
Wendy Terwelp is President of Opportunity Knocks(tm), a
professional career coaching and resume writing
organization targeting entrepreneurial executives and
business owners in transition.