Center for Career Development – University of Tennessee

University of Tennessee – Center for Career Development

The Telephone Interview

The telephone interview can be an excellent way for an employer to do initial screening of applicants or conduct a full interview. The telephone interview enables the interviewer to evaluate your communication skills, knowledge and interest of a specific position. This type of interview can present a challenge if you are not ready. Being organized and well prepared is the key to success for this type of interview. In most cases you will be initially contacted to schedule a time for the telephone interview. This allows you time for research and preparation.

PREPARATION – Because we often use the telephone for chatting to friends, it is important to restructure your attitude and adapt a professional manner when answering or using the phone during the job search process. It is suggested that you answer the phone in a pleasant or professional manner and not say “City Zoo, Mr. Lion speaking.” This won’t impress a potential employer. Also, talk with roommates or others who may answer your phone about this concern as their behavior reflects on you.

Posture while on the telephone can affect your voice. Slouching in a chair or laying on the bed or floor can cause your voice to be more casual and hard to understand. Sit as you would in an actual interview or at a desk with your notes in front of you.

Be prepared to take the telephone interview during the day or evening hours, including weekends. If you can respond quickly, pleasantly and professionally, you will come across as a much stronger candidate who is interested in a position with the organization. Your reaction to their telephone call will directly affect their evaluation of you as a candidate, including your ability to handle a situation in a calm, mature manner. Treat the telephone interview as seriously as a face-to-face interview.

Take the call in the privacy of a room, if possible. If the telephone is in a noisy location, ask the interviewer to wait a moment, then quickly move the phone to a quieter location, turn off music, ask roommates to be quiet, etc. You want to be able to totally focus on the telephone interview and not be distracted. If you have call waiting and you receive a call during the interview, do not stop to take the other call. If the beeping continues, apologize to the interviewer and ask them to continue. Avoid chewing gum, eating, drinking or smoking while on the telephone interview. These actions are rude during an interview and the sounds are actually amplified on the telephone.

Energy and enthusiasm need to come across in your voice. Occasionally smile as you talk as this will come across in your voice. Talk slowly and clearly during the telephone interview. Avoid using a speakerphone for an interview. NOTE: consider doing a practice telephone interview with a friend and taping the session to identify areas where improvement can be made.

MATERIALS – There are several things you will want to have handy for telephone interviews.

  • A copy of your resume/list of references
  • Paper/pens/pencils for taking notes
  • A copy of your transcripts
  • Any correspondence you have had with the employer including company literature
  • Your personal calendar and course schedule for the semester in case you need to schedule a company visit or another interview

ENDING ON A POSITIVE NOTE – At the end of the telephone call, the interviewer will usually explain what you can expect to happen next: a letter within two weeks; another contact from the caller or a telephone call from someone else in the company. Be sure to express interest in the company and appreciation for the telephone interview. At this time ask if additional copies of your resume, transcript or a list of references is needed.

Before the telephone interview is ended, be sure you have the interviewer’s name, title, company and telephone number. Often you can avoid saying you don’t remember the interviewer’s name by asking them to spell the last name. If it is a common name such as “Smith” then you can reply, “Oh it’s spelled the usual way.”

Treat all telephone calls from any company contact as equally important. Managers greatly value the reaction and opinion of their staff.

After the telephone interview it would be appropriate to send a brief thank you note. Refer to the telephone interview, mention one or two items that were discussed and reiterate your interest in the position and their company.


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