The first thing we are going to look at is what a telephone interview actually is. If we understand what a telephone interview is then we will be able to understand what the person assessing you is looking for. Let’s get straight into it.

One of the main reasons an organisation will have a telephone interview is that they don’t want to meet hundreds or scores of applicants face-to-face during the early stages of selection. If they do that, it can be extremely time-consuming and expensive. A telephone interview can last, say, 5 minutes; sometimes they will go on to 20 or 30 minutes, but the great thing about them is the assessor does not have to meet you until they are 100% certain that you meet the qualities required for the role.

An employer may decide to use someone else within their organisation, or in fact a recruitment agency, to carry out the telephone interviews for them. That means the people who pass the telephone interview are the best of the initial sift and they are far more likely to meet the criteria the employer is looking for. So, in harsh terms, a telephone interview is a sifting process. Because it’s a sifting process, some candidates don’t really take telephone interviews that seriously.

Obviously you are going to take it seriously because you want to get to attend the all-important face-to-face interview. Nowadays, there are many hundreds of applicants for very few jobs and the competition is fierce; therefore, you need to be fully prepared and up for the challenge the telephone interviews presents.

In addition to using telephone interviews as a sifting process, it can also be used when a candidate has to travel a long way and the employer doesn’t want to put the candidate through the stress and hassle of a long journey unless they definitely have the skills required to carry out the job. Hopefully you are starting to learn that the telephone interview will be used to assess whether or not you have the qualities required to carry out the role. During a telephone interview the employer will not really be able to assess your ‘likeability’ factor, or whether or not you will fit in to their team and organisation. However, a telephone interview is perfect for assessing whether or not you have the right skills, qualities and experiences for the job.

I want to now provide you with 5 essential tips that will go a long way to helping you pass your telephone interview. Follow these tips and you will be far better prepared than the majority of applications:


When you have a date for your telephone interview immediately place it in your diary. However many days you have to prepare for the telephone interview, start preparing immediately for it. Most people prepare the night before the telephone interview, which is not particularly good practice! You have a lot of work to do, so the sooner you start the better. The areas that you need to work on are:

  • How you communicate on the telephone
  • Researching the role you are applying for (you can do this by getting a copy of the job description or person specification)
  • Researching the company you are applying to join (this can usually be done by visiting their website).

Before the telephone interview commences makes sure that:

  • Your telephone is fully charged (if using a mobile phone)
  • You are in an area that has a good reception (if using a mobile telephone)
  • You will not be disturbed by anyone or anything.

When the employer calls you to undertake the telephone interview make sure you speak clearly and concisely. Although the interviewer cannot see you, they will form an opinion of how you communicate. Communicating effectively includes:

  • Speaking clearly and concisely
  • Being professional at all times
  • Avoiding the use of abbreviations or slang
  • Listening to what the interviewer has to say and answering the questions appropriately.

It is far better to be seated comfortably in a quiet room away from any distractions during the telephone interview. Some people prefer to stand up and walk around; however, if you do this you are far more likely to breathe heavier during the interview which may be distracting to the interviewer.


If you have previously submitted an application form prior to the telephone interview, make sure you have a copy of it in front of you. It is also advisable that you have a copy of your CV. If the interviewer asks you questions about your previous employment or qualifications dates then you will have the information to hand.


Here, we will provide you with a few sample telephone interview questions and tips after each one to help you answer them effectively.

Q. Why do you want to work for our organisation?

Tell them about the positive things you’ve learnt during your research. If they have won any awards, or if they have been in the news for good reasons, try to include these in your response. You may also choose to tell them that you have heard positive things about the company during your research.

Q. Why do you want to work in the job you have applied for?

The best way to respond to this question is to tell them that you have studied the role carefully and that you have the skills to match it. You also believe that the role is one that you can excel in and you can bring something positive to their organisation.

Q. What qualities are important to work in the role you are applying for?

Simply tell them the qualities you have learnt whilst researching the person specification and job description.

Q. What evidence can you give to show you possess these qualities?

When answering this question come up with examples that match the person specification. For example, if one of the qualities is that of ‘customer service’, tell them a specific example of where you have already carried out this work in a previous role. Remember also to use the STAR method when answering the question.

The telephone interview questions and answers workbook is the most comprehensive guide available. It will provide sample answers to the most common types of telephone interview. Order your copy below for just £9.99 plus p+p.

Telephone Interview Questions Download
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  • Essential advice for passing any type of telephone interview;
  • Guidance from an interview recruitment expert;
  • 30x sample telephone interview questions and answers;
  • How to research any organisation effectively;
  • Insider tips from career guidance experts.