January 28th, 2020

Top Phone Interview Tips to Help You Get Hired

The moment has come: you’ve lined up multiple phone interviews and are about to take an important next step along the road to recruitment.

Most likely, your potential employer will use this conversation to whittle down a list of candidates. Are you prepared to maximize the minutes you have and convince that hiring manager you’re an invaluable asset? To find out exactly how to do well in a phone interview, follow our Before, During, and After the phone interview breakdowns below.


How to Prepare for a Phone Interview

Preparing for a phone interview is quite similar to preparing for an in person interview when it comes to research. Even though you’ll be doing the interview at home, you still need to research as if you were going into the office for the interview. Before the phone interview you’ll also need to prep your space, and ensure you’ve carved out enough time for the call.

1. Do your Homework

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This strategy lends itself well to the interview process, too.

Preparation is everything, so before you pick up the phone, chat with your Ajilon recruiter about the unique qualities of the business you’re applying to. Discuss its current challenges, and note the recent successes the organization has had. Everything you learn from your recruiter can become fodder for your upcoming discussion.

2. Prepare Your Space

As is the case with any interview, your goal should be to appear composed and focused. Spotty cellular service or a barking dog in the background can throw a wrench in the works — fast.

Prior to starting your call, go somewhere quiet where you can concentrate without interruptions. If there’s any possibility that your cell service won’t be reliable, opt for a land line instead of your mobile phone. Give yourself plenty of time with the interviewer by keeping your schedule for that day open, and mute all phone and laptop notifications so incoming texts and social media alerts don’t distract you. Even if you’re perfect for the job, fully prepared, and have nerves of steel, it’s wise to create an environment that’s conducive to success.

3. How Long do Phone Interviews Last?

Phone interviews can last anywhere from just a few minutes, to a half hour or more! For this reason, it’s important to block out at least 30 minutes of time for a phone interview. The last thing you want to do during a phone interview is rush the hiring manager off of the phone because you have plans.

Looking to shine in your next phone interview? These tips can help. via @ajilon: https://ajilon.co/2L9f7DO


How to Answer the Phone for an Interview

The rules for answering the phone for an interview are simple: be professional, and polite. When the phone rings, answer it as quickly as possible and be sure to state your name. Something along the lines of “Hello, this is John Smith” is perfectly fine. It’s important to remember that even though the hiring manager may be calling your personal number, they are not your friend, so keeping the conversion professional, not casual, should be at the top of your mind.

Phone Interview Tips

Even though you won’t be seeing your interviewer face to face, the majority of in person interview advice can still be applied to phone interviews.

For a successful call, follow these phone interview tips:

1. Listen Up
2. Speak Powerfully
3. Take Notes
4. Smile

Listen Up

This may sound like a no-brainer, but listening carefully during your call is vital. When the time comes for that much-anticipated conversation, many candidates find themselves rushing to supply answers without fully absorbing the questions being asked. Allow the hiring manager to finish talking before you reply, and ask for clarification if you need it. This is your time, so use it to your advantage by ensuring every answer you provide is relevant.

Speak Powerfully

When it’s your turn to talk, take the advice of the advice of Julian Treasure, author of the book How to be Heard: Secrets for Powerful Speaking and Listening, and avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Speaking, which include passing the blame, exaggeration, and confusing your opinion with fact. Instead, be honest and authentic, show integrity, and demonstrate that you ultimately wish everyone well — your former boss included. This approach will ensure the interviewer listens to you, too.

Take Notes

When you’re on your call, don’t forget to take notes. Additional information about the position, aspects of the work you’re unfamiliar with, client projects mentioned by the interviewer…all of these serve as valuable reference points that can help you prepare for the next phase of the interview process.

Note-taking will keep you on your toes and require you to ask questions that display your enthusiasm for gaining a thorough understanding of the job. You can then use what you learn to craft a personalized thank you, thus allowing you to demonstrate a desirable ability to retain and reiterate key insights and facts.


What’s the point of smiling during a phone interview, you ask? According to one academic study on the effects of smiling on speech, “A side effect of smiling is an alteration of the vocal tract, suggesting that during vocalization smiling may be heard as well as seen.”

For this reason, candidates should treat phone interviews as they would an in-person conversation and make every effort to convey happiness and a positivity attitude. Constant smiling isn’t necessary — and may even be perceived as nervousness — but infusing your voice with a smile is important; as stated in the study, “…People wishing to convey a positive, approachable, auditory impression, should smile while speaking.”

Even without the benefit of a face to face interaction, a phone interview can reveal a lot about you as a person and employee. Done right, it can leave your hiring manager with a memorable impression that jumpstarts the momentum in your job search.

Phone Interview Questions

Phone interview questions tend to follow the same pattern as in person interview questions.
You should expect to be asked these common phone interview questions during your interview, so it would be very wise to have your answers prepared ahead of time.

Tell me about yourself

When asked this question it’s easy to start rambling about your hobbies and hometown, but you should be using this question to your advantage. What skills/qualities/traits do you possess that align with the company goals and make you a great candidate for the particular position you’ve applied for?

What are your strengths?

Tell the interviewer about any specific skills you may have that pertain to the role and exactly how that can benefit the company. Being able to provide specific examples is also helpful.

What are your weaknesses?

This is the question that nobody likes, but knows will always come up. A lot of the time, the interviewer is mostly interested in hearing how you handle being asked this question, versus the actual answer.

Nobody is good at everything, so tailor your response to this question strategically. One way to do this is to pick one of your real weaknesses (always be honest!) and explain what steps you’re taking to overcome that weakness.

For example:

“Something I struggle with is time management. I tend to take a lot on without really budgeting or planning, and this often leads to double booking meetings or rushing deadlines. Something I’m doing to curb this behaviour is using a monthly calendar. I write down all my meetings and obligations in the calendar and review it each evening.”

Why do you want to work here?

This is another chance to show your interviewer that you’ve done your research about the company. Explain what it is that would make you excited to go in to work there everyday. Answers often relate to the company’s values, products, projects, or reputation.

Why should we hire you?

This is an important question to prepare for, because you want to make sure you answer lands somewhere between modest and cocky. This is your opportunity to highlight all the things about yourself that would make you the perfect candidate for the role you’re applying for.

Questions to Ask in a Phone Interview

Often times candidates become so wrapped up in preparing for the questions that they may be asked during a phone interview, that they forget to think of any questions themselves and end up getting caught off guard during the interview. Having a list of questions to ask during the phone interview shows the hiring manager that you want to make sure the company and role is the right fit for you, and that you’re not just willing to accept any job at all. Here are a few questions to ask in a phone interview:

  • What does the typical day look like for someone in this role?
  • Who would I report to? Would anyone report to me?
  • What is the most challenging part of this role?
  • What is the company culture like?
  • Are there any opportunities for growth within the company?
  • Why is this position currently open?
  • If I’m chosen to move forward, what are the next steps in the interview process?

How to End a Phone Interview

Be sure to end a phone interview just as enthusiastic as it began. Before saying goodbye, express to the interviewer that with all the additional information you’ve received about the company and position, you’re even more excited about the possibility of being hired for the role. The interviewer has taken time out of their day to chat with you, so it’s very important to recognize and thank them for doing so. Also, if you haven’t already, this is your last chance to ask about what the next steps are if you’re chosen to move forward in the process.


After the Phone Interview What Happens Next

Unless you’ve been provided with a more specific timeline, after the phone interview it is typical for 4-5 days to pass before hearing from the interviewer. This is because they are most likely interviewing more candidates or just have not made a decision yet. Soon after your phone interview, it is always advised to send a thank you note.

Thank you Email After Phone Interviews

Sending a follow up email after a phone interview is considered proper interview etiquette. It shows that you appreciated the time the interviewer took to speak with you, and as a bonus it also helps keep your name “top of mind” as hiring managers tend to speak with a lot of people.

Still looking for the perfect role? Take a look at all of Ajilon’s open job postings now.



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