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05 May

How to nail a phone interview

If you are applying for jobs, particularly in this climate, it’s highly likely you will be called to discuss your application in more detail. These conversations are used as a way to get to know you in more depth than your CV alone can provide.

Usually, the interviewer will be looking at your personality and your experience to gather a basic understanding of your suitability for the role. A phone interview can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. Usually, the longer ones will be scheduled ahead of time, but the shorter calls are becoming more popular as a pre-selection tool before a more in-depth interview is booked. 

Here are my tips and tricks to help you nail the initial phone screening and secure that coveted face-to-face (or video) interview. 

1. How you answer the phone could make or break the next 5 minutes

The first skill that a potential employer will notice when calling you is your ability to communicate well and think on your feet. How do you present yourself? Are you professional in your speech? Do you demonstrate your personality and character? These impressions begin as soon as you answer the phone so if you are applying for jobs, then be ready when your phone rings! I recommend answering professionally, not just ‘hello?’ and expect every call to be a response to your application so you are mentally ready from the get-go.

2. Prepare for the call ahead of time

Prepare your answers to some of the more standard questions you may be asked and practice verbalising these with a family member, friend, or even your pet pooch (they are great listeners).

        Questions you could be asked:

        ‘Tell me about yourself’

        ‘Why did this role appeal to you?’

        ‘What are you looking for in a position / in a company?’

        ‘What are the strengths you will bring to the position?’

3. Be familiar with the role you’ve applied for

I cannot highlight strongly enough that knowledge of the job/s you have applied for is critical! Create a folder which contains all the jobs you have applied for, which you can easily access (or use your Talent Propeller portal). Even better, refer to the position in your answers. Outline why the job stood out to you and what skills you have that you feel will add value. 

        Biggest mistakes:

        “I have applied for so many jobs, I can’t remember this one”

        “I haven’t looked at the company so I don’t know why I want to work there”

        “I am just applying for any job right now”

4. Find a location where you feel comfortable, free from distractions

Remove pets, kids, significant others, and anything else that may take your attention away from the task at hand. Often you will not have any warning that someone is calling you to discuss your application, so be prepared. If you are not in a position to speak right then, explain that and offer an alternative time to be called back. There’s no need to go into detail when you do this – rather “now is not a convenient time for me, unfortunately, could you call me back at 11 am?”

        True candidate response:

        “Yes I am happy to speak right now, but how long will this take as my wife is in labour and I am her support person….”

5. Feel free to ask questions – it’s a two-way street

It’s important to remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you, so have some questions written down that you would like to ask. Asking questions during an interview shows that you are diligent and are seeking the perfect fit, not only for the employer but for yourself. 

        Questions you could ask:

        “What do you see as the critical skills required for this role?”

        “What are you looking for in your ideal candidate?”

Now that you are prepared and ready to tackle this stage of the recruitment process, here are some dos and don’ts to take note of during the phone interview.


  • Smile. Smiling can be heard through the phone and can open up both parties to build a good rapport.
  • Take notes. You may hear something that was either of interest or concern and having these notes will help you recall the conversation and give you an opportunity to address these.
  • Listen. Wait until the interviewer has stopped speaking before answering their question. There have been many times where a candidate has not allowed me to finish the question before answering and in most cases, their answer is completely off the mark and this can leave a negative impression.
  • Thank them. At the end of the call, make sure to thank them for their time and ask what the next process will be if this has not been discussed. 


  • Eat or drink during the interview. 
  • Interrupt.
  • Project negativity around previous roles or employers. A positive candidate will always outshine a negative one.   

I hope you have found these tips helpful. If you’d like further support or insights, follow us https://www.facebook.com/talentpropeller/

or reach out to us  https://www.talentpropellerjobs.com.au/jobseeker-tools/career-consultation/#!/step1

If you aren’t receiving any phone calls about your applications, perhaps your CV is letting you down.  See my tips on how to write a great CV: https://www.talentpropellerjobs.com.au/blog/443/if-your-resume-was-1-amongst-100-would-it-be-good-enough-learn-how-to-write-a-great-one/