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Jobs & Careers

How to prepare for a phone interview

Phone interviews are a staple first-round option when there's a high number of applicants for a job. Here's how to stand out from the crowd!

phone interview tips and advice

Like Skype interviews, phone interviews are a standard part of the interview process these days – especially when it comes to graduate schemes and grad jobs.

If you're lucky enough to get called up for a phone interview, well done! Here are a few tips to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance of getting through to the next round.

Don't forget that this is just one part of our student jobs section which also includes how to write a great CVcover letter and how to prepare for an interview.

7 tips for nailing your phone interview

  1. Don’t panic

    phone interview don't panic tip

    The worst thing you can do before an interview is let your mind run off in tangents imagining every disastrous scenario possible.

    Stay calm, take deep breaths, and try to occupy your thoughts with things other than just the interview (as difficult as this might be).

    Make sure you do all your prep in advance so that come the day of the interview, you aren't making yourself sick with worry and can relax.

  2. Get comfortable

    be comfortable for phone interview tip

    A major bonus with phone interviews is that you have no obligation to dress up in your Sunday best to make a good visual first impression, unlike with a Skype interview or when you're invited to a face-to-face interview.

    If you need to wear your fleecy sheep pyjamas in order to make it through the call, then so be it – but do bear in mind that dressing the part in something smart can actually help you get into the interview mode.

    Similarly, if you would prefer to pace up and down the room whilst on the phone, that's also ok – but sitting down as you would in a regular interview might work more effectively.

    Also, there's less chance of making stomping sounds while you do so! Sitting down at a table will make it easier to scan your notes as you talk, and will ensure that your voice is loud and clear.

  3. Research and prepare

    research for phone interview

    While it’s good to keep your mind off the interview on the day, some preparation in advance is obviously necessary.

    Not only should you be preparing some answers to typical interview questions (you can find a list of the most common ones here, as well as tips on how best to answer them), but you should also do some background research on the company.

    Make sure you have a good idea of who the company are and what they offer by thoroughly reading through their website and social media accounts, and Google News searching to see how they're perceived in the press.

    This will give you an informed outside perspective on the company, and put you in a confident position in case they ask what you know about the company (it might also be worth preparing a couple of compliments to dish out, too!).

    Keep your CV plus any additional notes that you think may be useful close to you so you can refer to them easily, too.

    Be sure to keep any notes very brief or you'll just feel overwhelmed if you have to look through them, and the last thing you want is the interviewer hearing papers rustling away in the background!

  4. Practice

    tiny mobile phone

    You know what they say: practice makes perfect! But in all seriousness, being interviewed by someone you can't look in the eye can actually be a lot more difficult than you think.

    It's easy to get flustered or lose your train of thought with a phone interview, and the best way to tackle this is to practice as much as you can.

    Ask a patient friend or family member if you can practice answering a few basic questions, and ask them for feedback on how you respond.

    Alternatively, if you're wanting to be super critical of yourself, you could always record yourself practising answers using your smartphone and listen back to see where you could improve.

    Don't be put off by hating the sound of your own voice though – it will always sound a lot worse to you than it will to others. Promise!

  5. Remember to listen

    phone interview listen carefully advice

    This might sound obvious, but when you're there in the moment it can be easy to get caught up in saying your bit that you forget to actually listen to what the interviewer is saying.

    Take your time, listen carefully to what you're being asked before you respond and whatever you do, never interrupt!

    It's best to slow down when answering the questions as well, as it's more obvious that you're speaking quickly when it's over the phone rather than in person.

  6. Prepare your surroundings

    post it notes office

    Double and triple check the time and date that the interview is due to take place, and arrange a place where you can take the call without being disturbed or distracted.

    It’s probably best to inform housemates/family members that you’ll be expecting the call, so they know not to come knocking on your bedroom door to see if you want a cup of tea right in the middle of things!

    It might also be worth giving a friend a call from your chosen spot to make sure your reception is decent and that the line is clear with no background noise. They can then let you know if you need to make any changes before the call.

  7. Treat it like a normal interview


    Although the pressure of a face-to-face interview isn't there, this doesn’t mean you should view it as any less important.

    You might be grateful for the fact your interviewer can't see you without your make-up on, but this does also mean there's more weight placed on how you carry yourself verbally and how you answer the questions as that's all the interviewer has to judge you on.

    Keep a smile on your face throughout the interview (this helps to make you sound keen and chipper) and try to avoid “umming” and “ahhing” too much when unsure of how to answer a question. Simply ask for a few seconds if you need to think about what you want to say.

    Get a good night’s sleep the night before and go over what you need to know the previous day, then once more when you first get up in the morning.

    Make sure you have everything you need for the interview sorted well in advance so you can rest easy and not think about it all too much on the day.

    And finally... good luck! You can do it!

Make sure you check out our guides to nailing Skype interviews and in-person interviews while you're at it - you might find there are a few insider tips that are handy for phone interviews too!

Got any phone interview tips of your own to share? Leave us a comment below.

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