How to Stand Out on a Phone Interview


Although it may seem that video interview technology is all the rage, knowing how to handle yourself on a good old-fashioned interview phone call is still important. Phone interviews and phone networking are on the rise, so it’s vital to develop a professional phone behavior.  

Phones are still the primary technology used for interviews and are used by hiring companies to recruit, screen, and interview. The main reason for the increasing use of phones and video technology is to save on costsAs travel costs increase, there is pressure on budgets to be more efficient and effective during the hiring process. This means you need to be as amazing on the phone as you are face-to-face.  


One thing that can really derail the focus of a phone call is background noise. It’s distracting and frustrating for those on the other end. Some examples are babies crying, dogs barking, a coffee shop barista calling out names, or the garbage truck rumbling by. We’ve all been on conference calls when a remote attendee forgets to mute their line and they scream at their children while the people on call are laughing or, at the very least, annoyed 

Missteps on a remote interview could prove fatal to your job search. Your child or dog bursting into the room creating a moment of levity is ok once you are hired—we all make phone mistakes—but not while you are in job search mode. It’s up to you to prepare for a great interview. 

This phone call needs to represent you on your best day. Resist the urge to say, “It’s only a phone screen. It’s just a phone meeting.” Danger, danger, danger! You are attempting to sell yourself at every moment you are in front of them as the best candidate for the company doing the hiring. Regardless of whether the individual on the other end is a recruiter, an HR person, an assistant, the hiring manager, or someone you’re networking with, you need to create a lasting and professional impression through this phone call. Treat every communication touchpoint as an interview. Nothing less.  


There are advantages and disadvantages to phone call interviews. One disadvantage of a phone interview is that you might tend to ramble. Actually, you will ramble. This is normal because you are likely nervous, and you have no nonverbal clues to indicate how you’re doing.  

Another disadvantage is that it can sometimes be hard to understand questions if English is a second language for you or the other person, if they talk quickly, or if the question is just unclear. The primary disadvantage is that you can’t rely their non-verbal body language, so you don’t know if they’re smiling, rolling their eyes, or making eye contact. To compensate for the disadvantages, make sure you use your advantages.  

The biggest advantage you have on the phone is you get to cheat! You can, and should have, multiple sheets of paper in front of you. It’s best not to navigate files on your computer while talking on the phone. The interviewer might hear clicks and you can get distracted. Use your old school hard copies.  

Here are the materials you want to have around you while you are on the phone: 

  • Your résumé 
  • The job description that they issued (with your notes and questions) 
  • Printouts of some key pages about their company (About, Division, People, Values) 
  • Short notes of your answers to key interview questions 
  • Top questions you want to ask them  
  • Paper and pen to take notes on their questions, comments, and insights (these will be critical later for your thank you e-mail and future interviews) 

Keep your key documents handy and clearly marked. As a result of this ‘cheating,’ you should be able to have great answers and express your interest in the position.  


Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer for a moment. Company executives and recruiters are extremely busy. If they requested a phone call with you, they are most likely squeezing it in the middle of many other things. They might be calling multiple candidates in the span of a couple of hours, days or weeks, and they’re responsible for assessing you. They’re trying to choose the best candidate for the position without any visual cues and trying to remember who said what.  

Now, pretend you are face-to-face with the interviewer and remember to use the same in-person rules as you would on the phone. Some of the common characteristics of phone interviews and face-to-face interviews are the need to 

  • Understand them and ensure they understand you clearly. If needed, ask them to repeat or clarify the question.  
  • Answer their questions concisely – follow the “law of threes” and stop after a maximum of three short points.  
  • Be prepared with questions to ask.  
  • Be personable and energetic. Tips include standing up for the call, using your hands, and projecting through the phone with a good headset.  

Getting asked to participate in a phone interview is a great step in your job search path; be sure you are prepared and ready to rock your next phone call!  


Join Dana Manciagli’s Job Search Master Class® now and get the most comprehensive online job search system available! 


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