How to handle a telephone interview


1. Do Your Research

Become familiar with the company you are interviewing for and the person you will be speaking with. Get a general sense of what the company does and how the role you are interviewing for would fit within the organization. Asking a recruiter what the company does is the fastest way to get eliminated from the interview process as it shows a lack of preparation and respect for the recruiter’s time.

2. Be on Time

Be ready to answer a recruiter’s call at least five minutes before the scheduled time. Also, be sure to ask in advance what number they will be calling from. Occasionally, I have had a call go to voicemail, and then the candidate calls back 20 minutes later explaining they didn’t answer because they didn’t recognize the phone number. If you are expecting a call at a certain time, be sure to answer that call.

A recruiter’s day is usually scheduled pretty meticulously, so missing a scheduled call and then calling back 15 minutes later can throw them off schedule for other interviews. Recruiters will find this extremely frustrating and disrespectful.

3. Be Prepared

Before you answer the recruiter’s call, ensure that you will be able to focus during the conversation and that you will be able to effectively communicate. Find a spot in your home, office, coffee shop, or car free of interruptions or background noise. A recruiter does not want to be interrupted by you yelling at your dog or a loud car passing by.

Also, confirm that you are in an area with strong cell phone reception. A dropped phone interview is usually not a successful one.

4. Ask Questions

As you research the company, take notes and make a list of questions that you have for the recruiter. Many of your questions may be answered during the interview; make sure you prepare a long enough list so you’ll have questions to ask at the end no matter what.

The questions should be focused on the company, the job, and the responsibilities. The initial phone interview is not the appropriate time to discuss salary or benefits unless the recruiter brings the topic up first.

Don’t ask questions that can be easily answered by a trip to the company’s website. If the only question you ask is “Where is your office located?” you can probably expect to get passed over for the position.