Phone Interview - more important than you realiseThe Phone Interview

A critical ‘First Impression’ opportunity.

A shorter article today (read the FAQs here), about the often underestimated initial phone interview. Warning: Arbitrary figures ahead.

As you will appreciate, we see huge numbers of CVs. Most of those are from people who are doing their best to present as well as possible, and some fare better than others. Using a very crude (to explain the point of this article) 3-category filtering system, let’s assume the following:

  • 33% are a straight no – because they are not aligned to the role requirements (usually these are the people who are looking for any job and have made no effort to tailor their approach)
  • 33% are a yes, let’s book an interview
  • 33% are an ‘it’s unclear’, normally due to the differences in approach to CV composition.

This basically means that 2 out of 3 groups will normally be contacted (screened) by phone, either to clarify their application/suitability or to remote interview.


Telephone screening should be treated as if it is a face-to-face interview. It stands as your first interaction with the potential employer (or recruiter who is working on their behalf) and often holds the same weight as an in-person interview. Such screenings are not only crucial for gauging your suitability for a role but also serve as a useful alternative for face-to-face meetings, particularly when the employer operates from a location distant from your own, like outside of a main centre or even New Zealand.

To make sure you put your best foot forward, we’ve created a short list of things to consider and work on before that call comes in – before your CV is even sent would be better. Consider this part of your job search prep and be ready to deal with the situation when it happens:

  1. Approaching the Interview with Seriousness:

    Treating the phone call with the same seriousness as an in-person interview is crucial. This involves thorough research about the company (if briefed already), understanding the job role from any detail you have seen to date, and preparing answers to commonly asked questions. As a minimum when prepping your application, reflect on your career achievements and how they align with the role’s requirements as you understand them. Practicing your responses can also help in delivering them confidently during the call, particularly if the call you receive is unscheduled.

  2. Verifying the Telephone Number:

    Before a scheduled interview, double-check the contact details you’ve provided. A simple error in the phone number can lead to missed opportunities. It’s advisable to cross check any communication from the Recruiter prior to ensure all details are correct.

  3. Addressing Poor Telephone Connection:

    In the event of a bad connection, politely ask the interviewer if they could call back. This ensures clarity in communication, which is great for conveying your professionalism and attention to detail.

  4. Choosing an Appropriate Interview Location:

    Find a quiet, private area where you won’t be disturbed – this may require asking an impromptu caller to call back in 15 minutes and gives you time to get ready. This could be a room where you can close the door, or a secluded spot where background noise is minimal. An uninterrupted environment allows you to focus solely on the interview.

  5. Phone Readiness:

    If you are using a cordless phone, make sure it is fully charged. A phone cutting off mid-conversation not only disrupts the flow but also reflects poorly on your organisational skills in a planned call situation. If you put on the spot, asking for some time so you can find a charger is totally acceptable.

  6. Organising Interview Notes:

    Have any notes or your CV in front of you for quick reference when possible – keep a copy on your phone or know how to pull up your application from your email archives (assuming you run a smart phone).

  7. Matching Voice Tone and Pace:

    Listen to the interviewer’s tone and pace and adjust yours accordingly. Clear pronunciation and a confident tone are key. Matching their speed can help create a clearer conversation and ensure that you’re both communicating effectively.

  8. Dressing for an Interview (when it’s planned):

    Dressing formally, even for a phone interview, psychologically prepares you for a professional interaction. It sets a mental state similar to a face-to-face meeting, which can positively influence your speech and attitude.

  9. Standing During the Interview:

    Standing can inject more energy into your voice. It opens up your diaphragm, allowing for a clearer and more confident tone. This also helps in maintaining alertness throughout the conversation.

  10. Handling Silent Moments:

    Understand that pauses may occur as the interviewer notes down your answers or thinks of the next question. Maintain composure during these silences. Avoid filling every gap with conversation, as this can disrupt the interviewer’s train of thought.

  11. Maintaining Calm and Composure:

    Finally, staying relaxed is key. Deep breathing before the call can help settle any nerves. Remember, the interviewer is interested in getting to know you, so let your personality shine through while remaining professional.

While engaged in a job search, it’s important to be ready for such phone calls. Calls can arise unexpectedly, and being prepared can make a significant difference in getting through the recruitment process.


Doing well in a telephone interview needs a blend of thorough prep, technical readiness, and psychological awareness. By treating the call with the same importance as a face-to-face interview, ensuring a stable and clear phone connection, and selecting an appropriate environment free from distractions, you set a professional tone. You can consider adopting strategies such as dressing formally, and managing the pace and tone of your conversation can significantly enhance your performance. Remember, silences are a natural part of the dialogue, and maintaining calm and composure throughout is key. Each of these elements plays a vital role in presenting yourself as a well-prepared, attentive, and capable candidate, ultimately increasing your chances of success in the job application process.

  1. How should I prepare for a telephone interview compared to an in-person interview?
    Treat a telephone interview with the same level of seriousness as an in-person interview. Conduct solid research about the company and role, prepare responses to potential questions, and reflect on how your experience aligns with the job requirements. Practicing aloud can also enhance your confidence and clarity during the call.
  2. What should I do if there are issues with the phone connection during my interview?
    If you experience a poor connection, politely request the interviewer to redial. This not only ensures better communication but also demonstrates your attentiveness to detail and commitment to professional interaction.
  3. How important is the location from where I take the phone interview?
    It’s crucial to choose a quiet, private space for your phone interview. This minimises distractions and interruptions, allowing you to concentrate fully on the interviewer’s questions and your responses. A calm environment also aids in maintaining your composure throughout the interview.
  4. Is my attire important for a phone interview?
     Yes, dressing formally for a phone interview can significantly impact your mindset. It prepares you psychologically for a professional interaction, enhancing your speech and attitude during the call. This approach helps in emulating the environment of an in-person interview.
  5. How should I manage silent moments during a telephone interview?
    Understand that brief silences are normal. They often occur as the interviewer processes your answers or makes notes. Maintain your composure and use these moments to gather your thoughts. Avoid the urge to fill every pause with conversation, as this can disrupt the interviewer’s thought process.
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