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Blog>Guides>How to Prepare for a Phone Screen Interview in 7 Steps and Tips for Success

How to Prepare for a Phone Screen Interview in 7 Steps and Tips for Success

Article index


  • Learn why employers like to use phone screen interviews

  • See what you can do to prepare for an upcoming phone interview

  • Understand the types of questions you will likely face in a phone screening interview

  • Tips to ensure you do well in a phone interview


Phone interviews have become a popular way for employers to sort through the multitude of candidates who submit applications. Also known as the "phone screening" step in the interview process, these preliminary interviews are used to determine if a job applicant is the right fit for an available role. Candidates who impress the interviewer will often receive an invitation for a second interview, which will typically be conducted face-to-face.

Many job applicants who learn they have a phone screen interview feel nervous about the impending conversation because a phone call feels less personal and can make it harder to read body language. However, taking the time to prepare for the call and recognizing what the hiring manager wants to accomplish can help you succeed.

If you recently received a request for a phone interview, here is what you need to know and how you can prepare to put your best foot forward.

What Employers Want From a Phone Interview

Phone interviews offer convenience and speed for recruiters and managers interested in hiring new employees. With a phone interview, you can connect with each candidate significantly faster to learn key information about them.

For example, many interviewers will want to:

  • Find out whether you are genuinely interested in the position

  • Learn whether you are a good fit to handle the skills and expectations

  • Learn what you want to get out of the position and what your salary expectations might be

  • Identify top candidates for their open position

  • Gain an initial feel for your personality and work ethic

A phone interview allows the human resources professional to weed out candidates who immediately seem unfit and focus energy and resources on those most likely to fill the position well.

As a candidate, you will stand out if you recognize the importance of this initial phone interview and come to the conversation prepared. This can help you move on to the next round of interviews and even receive the official job offer. Follow the suggestions below to put your best foot forward with the interviewer.

7 Steps on How to Prepare for a Phone Screening Interview

Take some time to prepare to make the best impression possible. This can help you feel more relaxed and confident heading into the conversation. You can gather your thoughts and ideas to give quality answers when the interviewer asks you questions.

Below are the key steps you’ll want to take to ensure you are ready for your call.

1. Confirm the Interview

Before the actual interview, make sure you know all the details about the conversation. Confirm the time, your contact, and the relevant phone numbers to prevent miscommunication of any kind on the day of the conversation. Double-check important details like is it going to be a video or phone interview, and who will be calling who.

2. Research the Company

Always take the time to research the company before any interview. This shows the interviewer that you have a genuine interest in their company and understand your role if hired. Knowing the background of the business — such as its market, key products and services, and a little about the company's history — can go a long way in making you look prepared.

It’s also important to look over the job description again. Make a mental note of the traits and soft skills likely to stand out in this new position and consider how you can illustrate your skills.

If you know who you will speak with, you can also visit their LinkedIn profile to learn more about their professional background.

3. Choose an Appropriate Interview Space

Even though you will have your interview over the phone, you still want to create a professional environment for your conversation. Making sure that you have a quiet, calm space can help you remain focused on the conversation and reduce distractions and background noise.

Secure a place without roommates or family members around. You do not want a TV blaring or a microwave beeping in the background, nor do you want other people’s conversations pervading while on the phone. Instead, identify a room where you can have space that’s conducive to a professional conversation.

4. Polish Your Telephone Communication Skills

One of the most important phone interview tips is to pay attention to your phone etiquette. People use their phones to speak with friends and family throughout the day. In those types of situations, remembering proper phone etiquette is not required. However, when preparing for a phone interview, it’s important to take a minute to review some of the overarching guidelines of good phone manners. This will help you make a good impression.

Below are some key ideas to keep in mind:

  • Answer the phone with your name. For example, “This is Jane Smith. How can I help you?”

  • Make sure you do not chew gum. Chewing gum or anything else while on the phone can distract the interviewer.

  • Smile during the conversation. Even though the interviewer cannot see you, it will change the tone of your voice.

  • Have a glass of water nearby. If your mouth is dry from nerves or talking, taking a sip can help you avoid coughing or sounding hoarse.

  • Do not interrupt the speaker. If you want to add something, jot yourself a quick note and bring it up when you have a chance to speak.

Keeping these basic rules in mind will help you get started on the right foot with your interviewer.

5. Prepare Your Answers to Common Phone Interview Questions

Take time to review some of the most common telephone interview questions you might encounter. Reviewing this list can help you prepare and collect your thoughts. You’ll know what you want to say when you encounter the question, and you’ll reduce the risk of rambling or having a lot of dead air. Some common questions include:

  • An overview of your background. “Tell me about your past job experiences, responsibilities, and current work environment.”

  • “What challenges have you faced at work, and how have you overcome them?”

  • “What interests you the most about this job posting? What would you bring to the company?”

  • “Is there anything not included in your initial application or cover letter that we should know about you?”

  • “Tell me about yourself: What are your goals, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses?”

  • “What type of work environment do you thrive in?”

Taking some time to think about these types of job interview questions will help you provide better answers to the interviewer and give the best possible impression. Some people find it helpful to conduct a mock interview to help practice giving answers while minimizing hesitations such as "uhs” and “ums.”

6. Create a Cheat Sheet

Many people find it helpful to prepare a cheat sheet before their phone interviews. Sometimes, you can forget the thoughts you had carefully organized before the conversation when you are in the moment. You might find it hard to remember all the points you wanted to hit when speaking about your accomplishments or what you bring to the business. Therefore, a cheat sheet can be tremendously beneficial.

With a cheat sheet, you can write down some key notes that you want to remember about different aspects of your professional experience or how you want to address certain questions. You can put the cheat sheet in an easily accessible area where you will take your phone call.

If you use a cheat sheet, make sure you do not just read off the page. Reading answers will detract from the conversation. Instead, have a few clear notes jotted down that will help jog your memory so you hit your major points.

Alongside your cheat sheet, bring a copy of your resume to your interview. This can help you touch upon your professional background, remember relevant details, and be prepared to answer any questions the interviewer might have about your resume.

7. Set Up a Professional Voicemail

Set up a professional voicemail if you are communicating with potential employers over the phone. If the first impression you give to a potential employer comes through your voicemail, you want to make sure you present yourself in the best possible light. A clear voicemail that provides your full name and lets the caller know that you will return their call will likely work best.

While you work on your voicemail, it is also a good idea to carefully look at your social media. Ensure you do not have public posts on your page that make you seem immature or unprofessional. Use strict privacy settings to make sure your private material stays private.

Bonus Tips for Phone Interview Success

If you're wondering how to prepare for a phone screen interview, remember that it comes down to simple methods of communication, preparation, and enunciation. Here are three things to keep in mind as you prepare for your phone call:

  • Let others know that you are expecting a call. For example, if you know that the interviewer will be calling at 3 p.m., ensure that people who would normally call you at that time (e.g. friends and family) know to give you a wide berth.

  • If you are using a cellphone, make sure you know what areas in your home have a weak signal. Some people find that their phones are more likely to drop calls in particular areas of the home. If that is true for you, plan ahead and make sure you take the call in a secure area.

  • Speak clearly over the phone. Mumbled speech can be even harder to understand in a phone call.

Follow-Up After the Interview

Once the initial phone interview is over, inquire about the next steps in the hiring process. You can also ask for contact information for the person you spoke to so you can send them a thank-you note in a follow-up email.

It’s a good idea to follow up with a thank-you note after you have finished your interview. Restate your interest in the job and tell them you look forward to speaking with them again. Sending a thank-you note will demonstrate your appreciation for the interviewer's time and communicate your interest.

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