Top 10 tips to ace a telephone interview

By |2018-03-07T16:49:33+00:00September 13th, 2016|Categories: Advice|Tags: |

With the rise in remote working it’s inevitable that telephone interviews will increase as a standard stage in the recruitment process. Without the visual advantages we all take for granted during face to face conversations, how can you give yourself the best chances of acing that all important telephone interview?

Below are 10 tips to give you the best chance of telephone interview success.

1. Smile

Even though you can’t be seen by the interviewer(s) it’s very important to remember to smile during the call.

According to a study conducted by the University of Portsmouth:

“smiling affects how we speak, to the point that listeners can identify the type of smile based on sound alone, according to a new study. The research, which also suggested that some people have “smilier” voices than others, adds to the growing body of evidence that smiling and other expressions pack a strong informational punch and may even impact us on a subliminal level. It’s believed that some 50 different types of smiles exist, ranging from triumphant ones to those that convey bitterness.”

Source: ScienceDaily

smile-on-the-phoneOne trick to help you get into the habit of smiling while on the phone is to have a mirror close by. Check your reflection during calls and adjust your smile and posture (sit up straight with your shoulders back) accordingly.

As 84% of your messaging over the phone is your tone of voice, making sure that your “smiling tone” comes through is imperative.

2. Eliminate distractions

eliminate-distractionThere’s nothing worse than talking to someone over the phone who clearly isn’t giving 100% of their attention to the conversation. This is especially damaging if you’re distracted during an interview.

At the time of the interview, make sure you’re in a suitable location, free from anything that will inhibit your ability to focus on the call. Avoid public places and turn off other notifications and technology, such as the radio or TV.

Background noise is not only distracting for you, but also the interviewer. It’s imperative that ambient sounds are minimised.

3. Listen intently

If you’re not listening properly then you’ll not be able to answer properly. If you want to give yourself the best chance to ace the interview, give the interviewer time to finish their questions – don’t interrupt or try to finish their sentence – ask for clarification if required and make sure you understand what is being asked before answering.

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.

– Mark Twain.

listen-properly-during-an-interviewWhen the other person speaks, focus on what they are saying, don’t let your mind jump ahead to what you anticipate you should say in reply.
Many people find it hard to concentrate during conversations because they feel self-conscious about how they appear to the other person.
You do not have this issue over the phone, which helps you to focus on paying attention to what the interviewer is asking.

4. Keep your CV handy

Not only is it important to research your employer prior to an interview, it’s also equally as important to make sure you remember everything you have detailed about yourself on your CV.

have-your-cv-handy-during-interviewIt’s likely that you’ll be questioned about a variety of details regarding your professional past, from listed skills to career history.

Although it may sound silly that you could forget about such information, it doesn’t hurt to have your CV to hand to quickly remind yourself.
During an interview you can feel nervous and pressured, and in such situations it’s easy to get flustered.

5. Control your speech

Without the visual cues that a face to face interview would offer, it’s important that your interviewer gets a good impression of you. Top of the list of priorities should be your voice and how you speak over the phone.

You should speak clearly and with enough volume to be sure you’re heard properly. It’s important to enunciate properly and ensure that everything you say is understood.

control-speech-during-interviewOne way to check how you portray yourself through your voice is to record interviews (both real and practice). Hearing yourself from the interviewer’s point of view will highlight any areas where improvement’s needed.

Avoid using a speakerphone for interview calls. As good as technology is, you and the interviewer will always have a better experience when using the phone handset. Environmental factors, such as ambient noise and echoes, will reduce the quality of communication and could negatively influence the conversation.
If using a mobile phone, ensure that you’re in a location with full service to maximise the quality of the call and reduce the chances of being temporarily cut off.

6. Be available the first time they call

be-available-for-telephone-interviewBeing unavailable at an agreed interview time speak volumes about you to the interviewer. If you’re not available for the call at the agreed time, then it’s likely that punctuality, preparedness and time management aren’t your strongest traits.

Make sure you’re set up at least 10 minutes before the call is due (in case it’s early). You should be in your chosen location, phone fully charged and happy that you’ve researched the employer fully.

If you’re unavailable for good (and unavoidable) reason and unable to rearrange the interview prior, then be sure to contact the interviewer as soon as possible to explain, apologise and reschedule.

7. Dress the part even though you can’t be seen

dress-for-an-initerviewWhat you wear during the interview will also affect how you present yourself and could be the difference between success and failure.

Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire said that specific clothing – including superhero t-shirts – can make people more confident in all sorts of situations.

In the study, she gathered a group of students and asked some to wear a superman t-shirt. She was interested to know if the heroic clothing would change how her test subjects thought. Surprisingly, she found that not only did it make them more confident, but it also made them actually think they were physically stronger.

‘When wearing a Superman t-shirt the students rated themselves as more likeable and superior to other students’

When preparing for the interview have your attire ready, clean and ironed, even if that is a Superman t-shirt! Do not assume that staying in your pyjamas is acceptable – it’s not – and your attitude and demeanor will be negatively affected.

Other factors that make people confident, as revealed by Kia, include:


1. A new haircut
2. A sunny day
3. Walking in heels
4. Learning a new skill
5. Booking a holiday
6. Shaved legs
7. Lipstick
8. Glowing tan
9. Little black dress
10. Designer perfume


1. A sunny day
2. Freshly shaved face
3. A new suit
4. Freshly brushed teeth
5. A nice smelling aftershave
6. Being praised at work
7. A new hair cut
8. Sleeping in freshly washed sheets
9. Learning a new skill
10. Someone agreeing to go on a date

 Remember, even though the interviewer cannot see you, what you wear will influence how you come across over the phone.

8. Make notes

take-notes-during-an-interviewHaving a pen and pad to hand during the interview will help you to make quick notes and reminders.

Jotting down a question to ask at the end of the interview, making a note of important names and ensuring you don’t forget a date or time given, are just some of the things that could be crucial to your success.

9. Do your research

research-a-brandDoing your research on the organisation you’re about to interview for will allow you to assess whether that organisation is a good fit for you. Ask sensible and pertinent questions, and craft better answers. You’ll be able to articulate how you feel you’d fit into the brand culture and help achieve its goals.

Key areas to research include:

  • The interviewer (LinkedIn profile/social account)
  • Key members of staff
  • Customers, products and services
  • The brand’s culture
  • The skills and experience that the company looks for in an applicant
  • News about the brand
  • Brand social accounts and blog

10. Stand up


“If you have a confident posture people will react to you differently than if you have a doubtful posture. This effect on other people will feedback to you. Not only does your brain notice “Oh I’m standing up straight, I must be confident” it also notices, “Oh wow, everyone seems to have a lot of confidence in me. I must be pretty confident.””

Psychology Today

Standing up while speaking on the phone offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Improved posture
  • It makes us feel better by opening our lungs, allowing us to inhale more oxygen
  • It improves our confidence
  • It provides more room to express yourself. Even if you can’t be seen this will improve your speech
  • It raises our energy levels which will be evident in how we converse
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