How to ace your telephone interview: a complete guide

Career Advice
Rob Jones

By Rob Jones
September 11, 2023

July 16, 2024

0 min read

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, job seekers face new challenges as companies adapt to remote hiring processes.

One major shift is the increased reliance on telephone interviews, which can be daunting if you're used to in-person meetings.

Are you feeling anxious about making a strong impression over the phone?

Worried that you won’t be able to showcase your skills and personality effectively without face-to-face interaction? You’re not alone.

The uncertainty and pressure of a telephone interview can be overwhelming. You might wonder how to convey your enthusiasm, demonstrate your qualifications, and establish a connection with the interviewer—all without the benefit of body language and direct eye contact. It's natural to feel stressed, but the good news is that with the right preparation, you can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

Imagine this: you pick up the phone, and from the moment you say hello, you feel confident and in control. You answer questions with ease, your responses are clear and concise, and you leave the interviewer impressed and eager to move you to the next stage.

Sounds great, right?

This guide is designed to help you achieve exactly that. Let’s dive into our top tips for preparation and success so you can ace your telephone interview and land the job you deserve. We’ve put together some top tips on how to prepare.

Do your research

It’s important to carry out thorough research on the company, just as you would in an in-person interview.

It might be tempting to Google the company during the interview, but this might distract you from the questions being asked and cause you to miss something important. It’s important to be ready to ask common interview questions, such as ‘What do you know about the company?’ without needing the internet. 

Once you have a broad overview of the company, you can dig deeper into its specifics, including its structure, company culture, future plans, products, and services. The best places to find information are usually the organisation’s website and social media channels.

It's also good to research your hiring manager on LinkedIn and get to know more about the person who's going to interview you: what companies they have worked for, projects they were previously involved in, and more. This can help in the overall experience and hiring process.

Recap your CV and cover letter

The purpose of this first phone interview is to scrutinise the authenticity of the information you provided. Be sure to read over every detail in your resume, cover, and application letter beforehand. Think of questions that the potential employer may drive from the information in there and prepare to answer them. If you want tips on how to improve on your cover letter, here's a guide.

An advantage of a telephone interview is that you can check for facts from your CV and cover letter during the session (but be careful they don't act as an interruption). 

Keep your answers concise 

Conversational pauses on the phone can feel awkward, so it can be tempting to fill the silence with unnecessary conversation. 

Explaining a fact in a short, concise, and understandable manner is priceless. Employers in energy, process, and manufacturing industries want people who can easily simplify complex issues. Therefore, answer queries in a tidy and in orderly way without touching excessive info that the employer already knows or hasn't asked. Summarise your answers as much as possible.

The interviewer will use any pauses in conversation to process your answer, so don’t worry if there are any little silences between your answers. 

The art of listening in phone interviews

Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine when the other person has finished speaking in a telephone conversation. Don’t worry about leaving a short pause after their question to ensure they have finished speaking; as we mentioned above, the interviewer may be quiet to process or write down your responses. 

As you will be unable to see the interviewer, listen carefully to make sure the interviewer has finished speaking before forming your answer. 

Common phone interview mistakes to avoid


Source: Andrea Piacquadio 

Treating it with less importance than an in-person interview - while the interviewer doesn't see you, it’s a good idea to dress for the occasion so that it still feels like a professional environment. If possible, conduct it from a quiet environment, like a home office.

Failing to prepare all the needed materials on time - make sure you have read over all the information you need before the call. 

Allowing distractions during the interview -  Try to limit noise interference such as background televisions during the interview, so that the hiring manager can hear you clearly. 

Video interviews vs phone interviews: what are the differences?

If you’ve been looking for a job over the last year, you will likely have experienced a few different interview formats to accommodate social distancing measures. 

Whilst there are some similarities between telephone and video interviews, there are many ways in which the preparation is different:

Video interview Phone interview
Need to ensure technology is prepared - computer/webcam/sound etc. All you need is a phone (ensure you have enough battery charge if you’re using a mobile phone)
Look out for visual communication cues While you won’t be able to see your interviewer, be ready to detect when they have finished speaking before responding with your answer
Communicate confidence in your body language Again, the interviewer won’t be able to see you, but try to sound confident in your answers - it might be worth practicing answering common interview questions ahead of the call
Dress as though it’s an in-person interview Although this isn’t essential for a telephone interview, it might help to get you in the right mindset if you’re dressed in interview attire


During your job search, it’s worth making sure you are prepared for both types of interview.

Top 10 common telephone interview questions

Interviewer posing with glowing question marks, software engineer concept

Telephone interviews are a critical part of the hiring process. They help employers quickly identify strong candidates and screen out those who may not fit well. Preparing for these interviews is essential. Here are ten common telephone interview questions and example answers to help you prepare.

1. Tell me about yourself

This is often the first question asked, serving as an icebreaker. Keep your answer professional and concise.

Example answer:

"I'm currently working as a marketing coordinator at XYZ Company, where I've managed several successful campaigns, including a recent project that increased our social media engagement by 40%. I graduated with a degree in Marketing from ABC University and have three years of experience in digital marketing. I'm passionate about creating compelling content and am now looking to take the next step in my career with a company like yours."

2. Why are you interested in this position?

Employers want to know if you've done your homework and understand the role and the company.

Example answer:

"I've been following your company for a while, and I admire your innovative approach to sustainable technology. This position aligns perfectly with my skills and career goals, particularly in project management and environmental advocacy. I'm excited about the opportunity to contribute to a team that is making a real difference in the industry."

3. What are your strengths?

Focus on strengths that are relevant to the job you're applying for.

Example answer:

"One of my key strengths is my attention to detail, which has helped me successfully manage complex projects. Additionally, I'm highly adaptable and can quickly learn new software and processes, which has been beneficial in keeping up with industry changes."

4. What are your weaknesses?

This can be tricky. Choose a real weakness that isn't a dealbreaker and explain how you're working to improve it.

Example answer:

"I used to struggle with delegation because I was concerned about the quality of the work. However, I've been working on this by building trust in my team and improving my communication skills to ensure everyone is clear on their responsibilities. This has not only helped in distributing tasks more effectively but also in team growth."

5. Why are you leaving your current job?

Be honest but tactful. Avoid speaking negatively about your current or previous employers.

Example answer:

"I've enjoyed my time at my current company, but I’m looking for new challenges that align more closely with my career aspirations. Specifically, I’m interested in opportunities that offer greater responsibility and the chance to work on larger, more impactful projects."

6. How do you handle stress and pressure?

Employers want to know if you can maintain performance under pressure.

Example answer:

"I handle stress by staying organised and maintaining a positive attitude. When facing tight deadlines, I prioritise my tasks and break them down into manageable steps. I also find that regular exercise and short breaks throughout the day help me stay focused and energised."

7. Can you describe a challenge you've faced and how you overcame It?

Share a specific example that highlights your problem-solving skills and resilience.

Example answer:

"In my last role, we faced a sudden drop in website traffic due to a change in search engine algorithms. I led a team to identify the issue and implement a new SEO strategy quickly. We conducted keyword research, updated our content, and improved our site’s load time. Within three months, we regained our previous traffic levels and saw a 10% increase."

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Employers want to ensure your goals align with the company’s trajectory.

Example answer:

"In five years, I see myself in a senior management role, contributing to strategic decisions and mentoring junior staff. I hope to have grown within your company, helping to drive innovation and achieve our shared goals."

9. How do you prioritise your work?

Show that you can manage your time and tasks effectively.

Example Answer:

"I prioritise my work by combining to-do lists and project management tools. I start by identifying the most urgent and important tasks, then schedule my day accordingly. I also make sure to set aside time for unexpected issues that may arise."

10. Do you have any questions for us?

Always have a few questions prepared. This shows your interest in the role and the company.

Example answer:

"Yes, I do. Can you tell me more about the team I would be working with? Also, what are the key performance indicators for this role, and how is success typically measured?"

Being prepared with thoughtful answers to these common questions can significantly boost your confidence and performance during a telephone interview. Good luck!

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