Phone interviews

Many employers will conduct phone interviews or “phone screens” prior to in-person interviews. If you are conducting a long-distance job search, you may also be more likely to experience phone interviews.

Before applying

  • Provide accurate contact information in your resume so interviewers can easily contact you.
  • Create a professional voicemail message.
  • Have a phone interview information sheet prepared for each position you apply for – you never know when you may be requested to do a phone interview on the spot!

Preparing for your phone interview

Prepare for your phone interview just as you would prepare for an in-person interview. A phone interview is just as important as any other interview. This is the employer’s first impression of you.

  • Sit in a chair at a desk for your phone interview. You don’t have to dress professionally, but don’t get too relaxed. Your environment and the way you dress and sit, will set a professional tone for the interview.
  • Have copies of all job-related paperwork: resume, application, cover letter, previous correspondence, organization literature, and your list of questions to ask.
  • Notify roommates of your phone interview and ask them to remain quiet during the interview.

During the interview

  • Be aware that the caller can’t see you, your hand gestures, or your body language (they also can’t see the notes you have prepared!)
  • Verbal communication and tone of voice is very important during a phone interview – ensure you can hear and are being heard clearly.
  • Write down each interviewer’s name and position title as they introduce themselves
  • Listen very carefully, both speaking and listening are very important during a phone interview. Ask for clarification or for the interviewer to repeat a question, if necessary.
  • Smile when appropriate – it will come through in your voice. It will also show that you are engaged in the conversation and interested in the position. Watch those nervous giggles, though. They will give an impression of immaturity and lack of self-confidence.
  • Give succinct, articulate responses. Speak clearly and at an appropriate rate so that you will be understood.
  • Avoid filler words like, “umm,” “like,” and “you know” – they are especially noticeable over the phone.
  • Don’t talk too much. It can be easy to get carried away since you don’t have the non-verbal feedback of your interviewers to let you know when it is time to wrap up.
  • Don’t feel like you have to fill any silences, even if they seem exaggerated when you are on the phone. Once you complete your answer it is “on the interviewer” to ask the next question. If you do need time to think, say so – taking up to 30 seconds to answer a question is fine, just let the interviewer know

At the conclusion

  • Ask 2-3 questions about the position and take notes
  • Ask what the next steps will be in the interview process and when you can expect to hear back from them
  • Do not discuss compensation, salary, or benefits

After your interview

  • Write down and summarize the key takeaways from the phone interview so you will be prepared for any additional interviews in the future. 
  • Write a thank you email to each person or to the group as a whole within 24 hours.
  • Make sure to follow up with your contact if you haven’t heard back from them within the agreed upon time frame.

Virginia Commonwealth University
Division of Student Success
907 Floyd Avenue, Room 143
Box 842007
Richmond, Virginia 23284-2007

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