The Phone Interview

The Phone Interview

Phone interviews are a common way for organizations to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for an in-person interview. Just as in any resume situation, first impressions matter. In today’s marketplace 80% of job interviews are won or lost during the first five minutes of a phone interview conversation. Here are some tips meant to help you do well in your interview and move on to the next round.

The Call

If you’ve been given a specific time to call your interviewer, call at exactly the correct time. If you call and cannot reach your appropriate contact, speak with the receptionist to show you called at the correct time. If you’ve been given a time when the interviewer will call be prepared for an early, on-time or late call.

Be prepared

Prior to the phone call you should find a quite, distraction-free room. Try not to be near a computer, television or anything that could distract you. Inform anyone who could interrupt you that you cannot be disturbed unless there is an absolute emergency. You should have a pen and paper in front of you to take notes during your interview and a copy of your resume to reference past experience.


Know that the second you answer the phone you are on. Your interviewer is listening closely to you. Make an effort to remain positive and enthusiastic. Smile. What you say and how you present yourself to the interviewer is critical. Consider standing if this makes you feel more animated. A lively voice makes you seem upbeat and full of energy.

Focus on what you offer

The interviewer is interested in hiring someone who can do exactly what they are looking for. Describe your background and reinforce your skills that meet their needs. Avoid the negative. Stay focused on the key skills and requirements of the position you are interviewing for and relate these back to your specific experience. This is your time to highlight your specific qualifications and make your background shine.


Do not interrupt the interviewer and let him/her complete their thoughts before you respond. Listen carefully to what is being said. This is a good time for you to gather information on the position, the company and the hiring authority. If you are confused ask for further details or clarification. Ask open-ended questions. The more information the interview provides, the better you can respond.


Consider practicing for your phone interview. Prepare a 3 x 5 card with statements about your qualifications, strengths and positive attributes. Prepare a list of questions you have for the interviewer about their position, the company and the position you are interviewing for. Practice answering some common interview questions that you may be asked, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you consider yourself a team player?
  • Describe your management style?
  • What do you know about this organization?
  • Describe your work ethic.
  • Do you have any questions for me?

If possible, emphasize your answers with answers that illustrate your skills and relate directly back to the position you are interviewing for. Use real-life examples in your responses that highlight your real-world experiences and skills.


Silence during a phone interview can be unnerving. Be patient. Some silence is normal and to be expected. Your interviewer may be thinking or recording information. If you feel the silence goes on too long refer to your 3 x 5 card and ask a question.

The next step

As the interview draws to a close be sure to ask the interviewer what the next step is and what the hiring timetable is. If you are interested in the position for which you interviewed, express this. Ask the interviewer if she/he has any concerns about your abilities and skill set as they relate to the job you are interviewing for. This is the only time you may have to clarify any questions or concerns, so try to do so. Be sure to thank your interviewer and follow up with a thank-you mail.

Counter Offers

After months of searching and interviewing you land a new position that means more money, a better situation, and greater opportunity. You prepare your resignation speech, walk into your boss’s office and give your notice. Much to your surprise instead of awkward silence, anger or defeat, your boss offers a surprising counteroffer.

Collected data from the past few years shows that only in isolated incidents has the acceptance of a counteroffer benefited the employee. Human nature is such that the boss may be doing whatever needs to be done to keep you from leaving – until he or she is ready for you to leave.

Before jumping at a counteroffer, think long and hard. If you were worth X dollars yesterday, why is your company suddenly willing to now pay you Y dollars today? Take some time to think about the negative consequences involved in accepting the counter-offer.

You have now made your employer aware that you are discontent in your position. After your acceptance, your loyalties will be in question. Statistics show that 80% of people who elected to accept a counteroffer are not with their company six months later. The counteroffer was made in response to a threat to quit. What will happen the next time you think you deserve a raise or promotion? Though the offer seems appealing, your initial reasons for wanting to leave the company still exist.

Think carefully about all these facts before making a final decision. Evaluate your reasons for leaving your current position, the reasons you accepted your new position and what your career goals are. A mistake in your career path could cost you your professional growth.

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