How to Succeed at Your Next Telephone Interview

Telephone interview

More often than not, you will have a telephone interview as the second stage of a recruitment process. If you are at this stage, it means the company is interested in interviewing you, but they want to understand your CV in more depth. They also need to suss out your motivations for applying for the role and company. It can also be a chance to filter people through asking questions about their contractual requirements e.g. location, start date and salary requirements.

Telephone interviews will also often be with HR or a more junior member of the company. Essentially, the hiring manager wants to know if it’s worth interviewing you properly. Preparing for a telephone interview is slightly different to preparing for a face-to-face interview, which is usually further down the line. It will usually be shorter, perhaps 15-30 mins, but you still need to be ready to answer specific questions. It is also your chance to make a first impression through real conversation and live interaction with someone. Your CV and cover letter was good enough for them to sit up and pay attention. Now you can build on that by showing why they should invest more time getting to know your suitability for the role.

Telephone interviews are also a chance for you to figure out whether you want to go for that next interview if you are selected. Here are some tips on how to succeed at your next telephone interview:

  1. Do some basic company research

At this stage, you should have an understanding of the company’s purpose, mission and key products/services. This can all be found on their website. Make sure you are able to articulate this to someone verbally. Practise with a friend or family member, or even to yourself. Don’t just read it online and leave it at that. Make sure you say it out loud so you know you can talk through it clearly and concisely. Other research you should do at this stage includes looking on websites like Glassdoor or Indeed to find out about the company’s culture.

Also explore the company’s position in the wider industry and the company size. This way you will start to understand whether they are a good match for you. There are also often insights into the interview process on these websites.

  1. Understand your motivations

Be clear about why you have applied for the role and company. What makes it attractive to you? How does it fit with your longer-term career aspirations? Why would you be a good fit for the company? Your research in step one above should help with this. What skills, knowledge and experience do you offer? Make sure you can articulate your motivations clearly, especially if you are making a career change or leaving another company. They are likely to ask you why you have decided to change jobs or leave your current organisation.

If you haven’t been working, also be upfront about that and be ready to explain why. Talk about what you have done during your break, or if it was for personal reasons, simply state this.

  1. Review your original application material

Something a lot of us don’t do but should always do is save our original application material. This includes the CV and cover letter you applied with, as well as the original job description. Your phone interviewer will want to check your understanding of the role duties and requirements. They will also want to delve deeper into your CV. It’s easy to forget this information if you are applying for multiple jobs. It’s good to refresh your memory by re-reading these documents ahead of your interview. Since it’s a telephone interview, you can also have them in front of you on your laptop for reference.

  1. Know your contractual requirements

Think through some basic details related to contracts in case they ask you about these. Know what your notice period from your current role is and your earliest available start date. Check whether the commute to their office is feasible, and if not be ready to ask about flexible working options. Also know your salary requirements as they may ask you about this. It’s not the time to negotiate a salary at this stage, but if they bring it up, try to get a figure from them first. Research the market range for the role and industry on a website like

  1. Have questions prepared

The telephone interview is a chance for you to understand more about the role and company too. Prepare a few questions that aim to get you clarity on what’s mentioned in the job description. This is also why saving the job description is useful, as you can use this as the basis for your questions. Remember that the interview is likely to be shorter, so you don’t need a long list at this stage. But you can always come up with a few and judge the amount of time you have during the interview itself. Make sure you don’t ask questions where the information can be found on their website, as this just shows that you haven’t done your research. You could ask more about the role duties and company culture, as well as what to expect from next stages of the recruitment process.  

The good thing about telephone interviews is they are a lower pressure conversation. Both sides are getting a further understanding of your suitability for the role. Plus, you have the advantage of having materials in front of you since you are not face-to-face. Often, these conversations can be more informal and can be used to get a sense of your personality. Make sure you allow this to come across during the conversation. You still need to do your preparation and remain professional, but also see this as your chance to get further insight into a company and role.  

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