When you hear that you’re one of one the lucky candidates who’s been invited to have a telephone interview, how does it make you feel? Does your heart sink because you have no idea how to do well in a telephone job interview?

Do you breathe a sigh of relief, because at least you can find out more information and make sure the job’s what you really want before you book any time off work, to go meet them face to face? Perhaps you’re relieved at the thought of a telephone interview because you think it’ll be more informal and that relaxes you. 

Or maybe the thought of a telephone job interview strikes fear into your heart because, if they could just meet you in person, they would be bound to make you the offer because you’re sooo much better in person, and you find telephone interviews awkward as hell. 

Whatever your thoughts, and however you feel about the prospect of having one, a telephone interview is often the first stage in the process so you’d better make sure you’re putting your best foot forward if you want to be invited to progress to the next stage. 

But what are the rules when it comes to telephone interviews, what are the do’s and don’ts and how can you make sure that you impress when you have nothing but your voice to work with? 

What You Really Need To Know About How To Do Well In A Telephone Job Interview

When it comes to telephone interviews, there are a number of common pitfalls you must avoid if you’re going to be successful. But the good news is that there are definitely some key steps you can take that will help you come across in the best possible light ( ironic huh), and still stand out. 

The most common mistakes you must avoid to succeed in the telephone interview

Lack of preparation 

It might sound like an obvious point, but preparation is important if you want to do well in a telephone job interview. Being prepared is just as important for a telephone interview as it is for a face to face, even if the interview might be 30 minutes instead of an hour or more, and even if they tell you that it’s going to be informal. The truth is, it’s still an interview so you need to have your game face on- and be ready for anything. 

Not being in a suitable environment

There’s a reason that most interviews take plus in calm and quiet meeting rooms, instead of airport lounges. That’s not to say there’s never been an interview done in an airport lounge because I’ll bet there is. 

When you go to a face to face interview, you know that you’ll be in a suitable environment, the company makes sure that’s taken care of. When you have a telephone interview it’s all down to you. You need to make sure that your environment is right for your telephone interviews as well. This means, being somewhere where you can hear things clearly and where you can be heard as well as making sure there are no distractions. 

Once you’ve got the location and set up sorted, it’s time to make sure your technology is up to scratch. 

Not being heard

This might seem odd, but if you know you’re going to have a telephone interview, you need to make sure that your reception or lack of it doesn’t let you own. If this means going to a location where there’s better coverage, so be it. Obviously, this could be hard if there’s not a decent spot for miles. But if you can, it’s worth it since it won’t be easy to put yourself across in the best way when the interviewer can only hear every second word. 

If this is a real issue for you, then you might want to consider having the call on a … landline, I know, they still exist! 

But seriously, you never know who’s on the other end of the call, how many interviews they have lined up, what kind of day they’re having and what their hearing is like! So don’t throw any more obstacles in the way. 

And while we’re talking about being heard, there are a few other things besides your network coverage that can affect how you come across over the phone so if you really can’t do anything about the coverage then make sure you take extra note of the following tips.


Stopping this can be hard if you’re naturally a mumbler, but when it comes to a telephone interview, you need to remember that trailing off and mumbling things at the ends of your answers won’t do you any favors. Take a moment to think about what you want to say, and how you want to say it, then say it clearly and succinctly, and when you’re done, stop. 

Having a bad posture

If mumbling is a challenge for you, then this next tip could be a lifesaver. Rather than sitting in a chair, perhaps all hunched over, slouching, or worse still rather than being in a place where you need to keep your voice down for fear that someone might hear you, stand up, and project your voice. That’s not to say you should shout. But just speak confidently and deliberately. 

By standing up your voice will come out much more confidently and clearly than when you’re sat down. That’s a tip I earned from my recruitment agency and telemarketing days!

Not smiling

When someone calls you for a telephone interview, they want to know that you’re passionate and enthusiastic about the job and really interested in joining the company. But how the heck do you get this across over a phone? 

The truth is it can be hard to show energy and enthusiasm when it’s not in person. One way to do this is to stand up, which we’ve just covered, the other way you can do this is through smiling when you talk. This sounds so cheesy, but I swear, when you talk to someone and they sound happy, genuinely happy to be having the interview, it leaves a much better impression than when someone sounds like the whole things a drag. And what better way to sound happy and positive than to actually smile. After all, they say it’s impossible to sound upset or angry when you’re smiling. So give it a try. 

It doesn’t have to be some scary Cheshire cat grin, just a natural smile will do or at the very least, think happy thoughts. 

Not being hydrated

As a bonus tip for keeping your vocals on point, make sure you have some water to hand. You never know when you’ll need to take a sip, but if you do, make sure you politely let the interviewer know and sip away from the phone, no one wants someone slurping in their ear. 

You’ve got your environment sorted and your tech is ready. Now what? 

Not doing your research

Just as you’d prepare for a face to face interview you need to prepare for the questions that you’ll be asked in a telephone interview. 

Basic common telephone interview questions include:

  • What do you know about our company?
  • What attracted you to this job opportunity?
  • Why are you looking for a new role?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why are you a good candidate for this role? 
  • Do you have any questions? 

As you can see, these questions might seem straight forward… when you’ve done your research and you’re prepared. But if you’re not ready it can feel like a nightmare interrogation. Don’t put yourself in that position. Worst case scenario, you’re ready for anything and they barely scratch the surface leaving you with plenty more to show them in the face to face.  

Finally, when it comes to any interview always have specific examples of achievements lined up and ready to go as well as examples of some key competencies that you think they will be looking for in the job you’ve applied for.

(Find out about interpersonal skills interview questions and how to answer them)

Not listening 

Ok, you’re in a great location, it’s a great line, you’ve done your research, what could possibly go wrong? 

Have you ever asked someone a question only to have them talk endlessly to you in detail about something that was nothing to do with the question you just asked? It’s a mistake that can happen and the only way to avoid this is to make sure you really listen to the interviewer and what they’re really asking. Whatever you do don’t just answer the questions you prepared for no matter what they say. 

If you’re not sure what they’re looking for, it’s ok to check with them if you’ve understood the question correctly. 

When candidates do this, I’m always impressed and they get bonus points in my book for being very considered, thoughtful and contentious. 

Talking too much 

When it comes to telephone interview mistakes, next to people giving you an answer to a question you didn’t ask has to be when people answer a question you did ask, but instead of giving you the concise, to the point, clear versions they take you the long way around. A long and winding journey that requires you to leave breadcrumbs to help you find your way back to the question you asked them in the first place! 

Coming from someone who loves to talk, do yourself a favor and be concise. It’s good to give background where it adds value, but if you’ve been talking for 20 minutes nonstop and it’s only the first question then you need to take stock. 

And if you find yourself talking over the interviewer more often than not, then it might be time to expand your job search further. 

Not talking enough 

On the flip side of talking too much – AKA rambling on about goodness knows what is giving one-word answers. Not giving enough information can be just as damning as the opposite. They say less is more, but there are times when you definitely need more. 

If you’ve answered a question and the interviewer sounds like they’re still waiting for more, then it’s likely they want you to expand on what you’ve said, and if they ask you to expand, then make sure you do. 

Finally, at the end of what will be a super call ( now that you know what to do), be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and get their details so that you can follow up in the coming days. 

Here’s a quick summary of what you need to know about how to do well in a telephone job interview, so you can be prepared the next time you have one coming up:

  • Be prepared 
  • Find a suitable environment
  • Stand up tall 
  • Don’t mumble 
  • Smile when you speak, or think happy thoughts 
  • Have water to hand 
  • Do your research
  • Prepare for common questions
  • Know your achievements 
  • Have examples to hand 
  • Listen 
  • Be concise 
  • Show your appreciation 
  • Request details for follow up