5 Simple Steps to a Successful Phone Interview

Back in July I wrote an article about conducting a successful Skype interview. “Due to popular demand…” it’s time to consider the phone interview. And it’s not difficult. Just remember to do these five things and you should be successful.

(For the record, I am not concerned here with the telephone call where a recruiter simply confirms qualifications. This phone interview is to get the face-to-face interview.)

Get Dressed

If you are at work, obviously this is not an issue. But most phone interviews take place in the home and your first instinct is to feel relaxed. Don’t! You don’t want to feel relaxed, you want to feel comfortable and professional. So forget about the PJs and pretend it’s Casual Friday. “Clothes make the man” is true in this case…for women too!

It’s all about attitude. You have to sound professional. In a Skype interview, not to mention a face-to-face interview, the interviewers can see your body language. In a phone interview all the interviewers have to rely upon to judge your sincerity and level of interest is your tone of voice. If you don’t feel professional you will not sound profession. So, get dressed!

Get a Mirror

On the same lines, in order to sound professional and interested, and certainly not negative, use a time-honored old salesman’s trick: keep a mirror on your desk. Look at it and every time you say something, smile. Human beings cannot sound negative when we are smiling. We just can’t do it. But we can sound sarcastic. So be careful. (And, of course, don’t smile if you are discussing something sad or negative!)


You will be nervous. You never want to contradict something in your resume. So have it in front of you. Refer to it. You can’t do that in a face-to-face interview, but you can over the phone.


If they are interviewing you they want to hire you. Employers have the bad habit of talking too much. They will invariably tell you what they want to hear. If you are not listening (take notes!) you won’t know what they want you to say. So listen.


In a phone interview you will not have a lot of time to ask questions. If you can only ask one, ask, Who succeeds at your company? That shows that you want to make certain you are a cultural fit and that you don’t want to waste their time or yours. A second question to ask is, What did the last person who had the position do that you want to see continued and what would you like to see done differently? That’s the mature, professional way to ask, Why is the position available?

And remember to stay focused on the prize: You don’t want a job offer you want a face-to-face interview. These require two different game plans.


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.

An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.