9 Ways to Nail Phone Interviews

By Fidelis Navas (MD and Founder, Gamma Talent)

Telephone interviews are becoming more and more popular in recruitment processes. But despite their advantages, not everyone has first-hand experience of them, which can mean they can first appear to be pretty daunting.

I am finding my clients like phone interviews because you can use them for a short and sweet, good ‘first impressions’ test. And although considered very much part of the formal interviewing process, phone interviews tend to be quite informal, less rigid and less competency-based. They tend to be an opportunity for a general overview, seeing how well the candidate can converse and gauge their interest in the organisation and role.

I rate them too; I find them good for tackling unconscious bias. Encouraging diversity in the third sector is desperately needed; diverse work forces are proven in all sectors to be be more profitable and make more of an impact. But time and time again, recruiting managers recruit in their own mould. Phone interviews are one way of discouraging this; the sort of first impressions they offer can really close down any judgements managers and recruiters unconsciously make.

This all sounds great – but what if you’re one of the many people who has zero experience of phone interviews?

Well, as a starting point, here are 9 tried-and-tested suggestions to help you prepare for – and nail – your next phone interview:

1) Keep a glass of water handy


When you’re nervous, tickles in your throat or a cough starting up when you need to talk is bound to happen! It is also a useful tool to keep the nerves controlled, having something physically to do, i.e. take a sip helps give the mind a rest for a few seconds.

2) Feel smart to be smart

Wear something that makes you feel confident, that you feel good wearing. But I don’t mean your posh PJ’s if you’re at home!

You want to convey a professional image, whilst feeling invigorated and sharp.

If you don’t currently have interview attire, please check out Suited For Success.

3) Prepare

Just as you would for a face-to-face interview, make sure you have practiced your answers and done your homework on the organisation.

Ok, I know I started this blog by saying they tend to be quite informal – but that doesn’t mean you should come across as blasé or ill-prepared.

4) Location, location, location

This is a biggie. As this interview is all pre-planned, get yourself as logistically sorted as possible.

Do you know where you get decent reception at home? Do you need to book a private room somewhere? Are coffee shops really a stress-free, professional choice of location? Usually they’re pretty noisy and distracting for this sort of thing. 

5) Make a strong verbal first impression


Make sure you answer the phone to the interviewer, preferably by saying:

“Hello, [your name] speaking. Is this [interviewers name]?”

It just looks and sounds pretty naff if you don’t show confidence at this early stage – as the interview is pre-planned.

Also, if you’re at home and someone else is in, don’t let them pick the land line up. You know the phone call is coming; make sure you take ownership of it from the start. 

6) Take notes

Not only will it be helpful to remind yourself what you said, if you get through to the next round you’ll have a record of what you were thinking, what the conversation was about, how it felt in real time. Ultimately taking notes can provide a great platform of how to prepare for and build your responses for the next stage – most likley a face-to-face interview.

7) Don’t be tempted to Google answers in real time!!

This seems obvious but people do it. If you panic when presented with a challenging question, whatever you do, don’t Google it!

Seriously, this will just be obvious to the interviewer and make you look really rubbish.

Just like you would in a face to face interview, if you don’t know the answer, ask them to repeat the question, take a moment or two to think through what you’d say, or say you’re not sure.

Its okay to say you’re not sure of the answer, as that takes guts. Be brave and stay calm!

8) Listen and don’t interrupt or talk over the interviewer – even if you’re nervous or just trying to be polite!


This could be tricky because you can’t look them in the eye.

But when they are talking, be extra careful not to say: “yes, ok, right, hmmm…”

You’re presumably trying to give the impression that you’re listening because you can’t look them in the eye – but sound is so sensitive here. Remember, they are concentrating hard too. Give them space to have their own thoughts and focus all your efforts on processing what they have to say

9) Smile

This will project a positive image to the interviewer and will change the tone of your voice.

It may also be helpful to stand during the interview, since this typically gives your voice more energy and enthusiasm!

If you’ve any tips you’d like to share, please tweet me @GammaTalent and best of luck if you’ve got a telephone interview coming up.

Fidelis Navas
Founder and MD, Gamma Talent – Responsible Recruitment for the Third Sector