How to Survive a Telephone Interview

Telephone interviews are never ideal but sometimes necessary.  If you have never been a part of a telephone interview, you should know a few of the common pitfalls and how to overcome them.

First, it is very difficult to convey and interpret emotion over the telephone.  You cannot see facial expressions, hand gestures, or overall posture so you are left with voice inflection to interpret emotion.  Even if you say that you are genuinely excited about the position, the employer may not believe you if sound flat.  This can be difficult if you are more of a monotone speaker but you should really try to add pitch to your voice when trying to convey something meaningful over the telephone.  Likewise, interpreting an interviewer’s emotion can be tricky if they are not varying their pitch when speaking.  Although the interviewer may not naturally be a dynamic speaker, try to gauge the direction of the interview by the inflection in their voice and make whatever changes are necessary get the interview on track.

The other big pitfall to avoid in a telephone interview is awkward silence.  Say you just responded to an interviewer’s question and are ready for the next one but nothing comes – what do you do?  You can offer to elaborate on your response, use the opportunity to emphasis a related strength or provide a real world example on subject.  If nothing else, you can ask your own question – ideally on topic with the recent Q&A.

Rarely is the hiring process comprised solely of telephone interviews but it is not uncommon to encounter one as an initial interview or when there are scheduling challenges.  Although most people would prefer in-person interviews, you may never get there if you cannot survive the telephone interview so make sure you are prepared to avoid the common pitfalls.


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