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How to ace a phone interview
Interviews3 min read

How to ace a phone interview


This article was written by Nicole Gorton, Director, Robert Half and first published on

Phone interviews will rarely get you the job, but they could lose it for you. Phone interviews can be a low-investment method for employers to screen initial candidates, so you should approach them differently from how you would a face-to-face meeting.

Talking the talk

In a face-to-face interview, you’re there to demonstrate that you are the person for the job, but in a phone interview, you’re really trying to demonstrate your interpersonal skills.

That doesn’t mean the interviewers won’t ask you about your abilities and experience; they probably will, but that’s just the framework. What they are really assessing is your ability to build rapport and communicate effectively.

It’s mainly about listening and responding. The phone can be tricky. You don’t have all the nonverbal ways of building a relationship available to you, so you’re reliant on what you say and how you say it. That means leaving the sales pitch at home and letting the interviewer lead the process.

Really listen to what they are asking, and answer it. This demonstrates that you are easy to get along with, respectful of others, able to think on your feet and able to understand what other people want from you.

Be prepared

Preparation is everything. Know your material – particularly the company you are applying to and your resume. Also, find out what you can about the person who will interview you. Check out their digital identity and ask your recruiter about them. Being prepared gives you the confidence to ‘stay loose’ and be ready to respond to the interviewer.

Because phone interviews are short – often 30 minutes maximum – you don’t have time to waffle. Good preparation time gives you the ability to give short, efficient answers and makes you look competent. Expect the standard questions, such as:

  • Why do you want the job?
  • What are your strengths and accomplishments?
  • What do you want from the role personally (advancement, growth, challenge and so on)?

Enough about me, let’s talk about you for a while

It’s also good to have good questions ready. Ask about the job, the team structure, the KPIs and the next steps when the interview is over. Asking questions shows that you are taking the position seriously and doing your due diligence.

This is the beginning, or the end, of what could be a long-term relationship, and employers expect you to assess them, too. If you do it politely and professionally, you will gain their respect.

Mind your manners

You want to make the other person feel comfortable and feel good about you, so be warm but professional. Use formal language with a friendly tone and remember to show gratitude for their time and the opportunity. Keep personal matters to a minimum and, if the interviewer brings them up, limit them to benign topics.

Also, mind your posture and your presentation. They may not be able to see you, but they can often still hear these things in your voice.

Don’t forget your setting, either. Choose somewhere quiet and distraction-free. There should be no background television noise and no typing. And for heaven’s sake, this is not the time to go to the toilet (it’s happened).

Ultimately, the interviewer has two concerns: Are you able to do the job, and will they enjoy working with you? You want to leave them feeling that they like you.

A great phone interview gives you a head start into the process by biasing the person towards your success. So give it the same attention and care you would a final interview.

Nicole Gorton, Director, Robert Half

Nicole Gorton is Robert Half’s Asia Pacific Director of Strategic Accounts – based in Sydney. She is responsible for the partnership with large corporate organisations, cultivating the relationship and providing advice.

Nicole has over 18 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, across multiple lines of businesses and various geographies. Most notably in the UK, where she led temporary, contract and permanent hiring, and also developed high-performing teams.

While SEEK partners with trusted contributors to bring you the latest career advice, the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. 


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