Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Phone Interview Checklist

The phone interview is now a typical step in the hiring process because in-person interviews are a logistical challenge and time consuming. The phone interview is used to take a pool of candidates and, through a series of questions that confirm that the information provided is accurate and that the person is professional and articulate, select the top contenders to be brought in to interview.

The following is a checklist of to do’s for a phone interview.

As Soon as You Apply:

1) When you apply for a job or send your resume to a company, research the company and go beyond just what is on their web site. Google their name and click on all of the links on at least the first two pages of results to discover all of the information about the company that you can. Take notes or print the most important pages.

2) Go into Linked In and see who in your network has contacts in the company. Contact them and see what they have to say about the company. A client told me that they were dissuaded by a current employee from pursuing a position within the company (“it’s awful here).

3) Develop a list of questions you want answered about the company, the department, and the position to be sure YOU want to move on to an in-person interview.

When You Get the Call:

1) If you receive an unexpected call requesting a phone interview, do not take the interview then; propose an alternate time. You want time to prepare. No one expects you to be available without prior notice. Deferring the call to a scheduled time will not ruin your chances; in fact, being prepared before the interview will increase your chances.

2) Review your list of accomplishments (STARs).

3) Lay out your resume, cover letter (if applicable), company research, the list of questions you want to ask, paper and pen in order to take notes, and your calendar.

4) Be sure you are in an absolutely quiet location. You may be surprised how much noise can be picked up over the phone.

5) Stand up while talking. When we sit with no one else in the room, we are not as conscience about our posture and can slump, collapsing the diaphragm and sounding like we have no energy.

6) Stand in front of a mirror to reflect your body language. This might help you remember to smile and a smile is heard over the phone.

7) Keep your answers a tad shorter than you normally would. You are without the benefit of seeing the interviewer’s body language to know that your answer was sufficient (nodding of a head) or that she is ready to move on to the next question (she looks down at her list of questions).

8) If you need to think about an answer, say so; don’t just go silent. Silence may cause the interviewer to think the phone connection has dropped.

9) If asked about your salary requirements, reply that it is early in the interview process and that you need to understand more about the position before you could answer that question.

10) Express interest, if indeed you are interested. If this is not a fit for you, there are two options:

a) Continue with the interviewing process to get the experience. Don’t take this too far though; if they understand you were not interested from the start, you could get your name on the “never call again” list.

b) Say it is not a fit. The hiring personnel will appreciate your honesty.

11) Ask for and understand the next steps and approximate timeframes.

After the Interview:

1) Unless they immediately schedule an in-person interview, handwrite and US mail a thank you note.

2) As is the case in all areas of the job search, follow-up is your responsibility.

Know what to do to prepare for and pass the phone interview and begin your preparation now.


  1. Excellent tips for people without disabilities. However other considerations for people with disabilities need to be incorporated into this toolkit to promote accessibility. For example someone in a wheelchair may not be able to stand up as suggested when speaking on the phone. Second consideration is for people with hearing disability using a TTY phone - will they be able to receive similar call if the recruiter has a standard type of phone that does not allow for teletype messaging?

    People with disabilities need to be given greater consideration right from the onset rather than an after thought. They are an excellent resource with many valuable experiences, qualifications and attributes to make our workplaces more diverse and representative of our society at large.

    - Posted by CRTASA

  2. I think this was a good article. I have been a recruiter for over a decade but I never thought about the standing up part. Great tip. However, I don't think this is an approprate place to state the author should have included info for people w/ disabilities. This was meant to be a general guide. There are many different types of disabilities and u gave an example of a person in a wheelchair and someone that is deaf. If the person is deaf they need to tell the recruiter. I had a candidate that was deaf once and he emailed me when trying to set up a phone interview. We used an interpretor to complete the phone interview. He was eventually hired.

    My brother has a disability and uses Goodwill for assistance in finding a job and I help him as well. I do agree that there needs to be more information availalbe to them but they are companies devoted to helping them find jobs. So I get where you are coming from but feel it is hard to give a generalization to people with different disabilities.

  3. This is one of the most informative article I have read in a long time. Excellent one...well done

  4. Good Day. Great advice. Just one comment on referencing a current employee.
    2) Go into Linked In and see who in your network has contacts in the company. Contact them and see what they have to say about the company. A client told me that they were dissuaded by a current employee from pursuing a position within the company (“it’s awful here).

    Use caution on referencing one employee, this person may have a number of issues with the current employer, hence, a negative feedback. I have actually called personel in the sales department that I did not know and they were more than helpful.

    As well, check to see if the company is on one of the best managed list. It can be a plus.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Great article...Thanks

    I would add a tip from communication skills in regards to the silence part. Better than saying you need to think, start by saying: "let me clarify my understanding, what you asked me was............(repeat key parts of the question), did I understand you correctly?"

    By doing this, you buy yourself time to think, you make sure you answered the right question and shows your communication skills.

    If you still need to think after doing that say so...for sure better than silence on the phone.

  6. Dan,
    STAR is a very important concept for job seekers to know so I'm glad you asked.

    It is the format to use to answer interview questions and to list accomplishments on your resume. It stands for Situation or Tasks you faced (the before picture), the Actions you took, and the Results you achieved (after picture).

    For more on STARs read:

    The Power of Your STAR Statements

    Make sense?
    Judi Adams