Phone Interviews

Phone Interviews: How To Put Your Best Voice Forward


Today, more and more employers are conducting phone interviews before inviting job candidates to an in-person meeting. With more applicants available for each opening, employers do not have the time to invest in a meeting for every candidate that simply looks good on paper. Phone interviews make it easier to screen a candidates.

Related: Top 3 Tips For Phone Interviews

Some of these phone interviews may include standard questions that ask about facts, such as your experience and any specific skills you have. However, there are also employers who dive right into some of the most challenging questions, such as giving you a scenario and asking for your response and plan to handle the situation described.

As a job applicant, there are benefits and disadvantages to a phone interview. Some people are well-spoken and are great on the phone, but in person, their nervousness gets to them. Some are more comfortable speaking in-person and lack personality on the phone. Under both situations, it can be a challenge when you don’t have feedback that may typically appear through face-to-face contact.

Regardless of the situation, you need to put your best voice forward to leave the employer with a good impression. This may be the only shot you have at getting a step closer to securing a job offer with them. Remember that the employer may change their mind about inviting you in for an interview if you fall short of their expectations or leave a negative impression on the phone.

Note that in a phone interview, your intonation is most important in how you come across, so you should be energetic and enthusiastic and change your tone to better engage the interviewer. You should also be prepared to ask some basic questions, although save the big ones for a formal interview.

Putting Your Best Voice Forward In Phone Interviews

Take the tips offered here to help put your best voice forward and further advance on an opportunity to a job offer:

Treat Every Call You Receive Like It Was An Interview

Phone interviews may not always be scheduled. An employer may call you to respond to your submitted cover letter and resume, and the moment you pick up the phone an interview may occur right then. Most employers will be courteous to first ask you if this is a good time, but that does not always happen.

So, if you believe there is a chance an employer may be calling, be prepared by providing a professional greeting on your voicemail or when you pick up. Also be conscious of what the caller may hear in the background if you pick up the phone. If it’s not an appropriate time or place to talk, let it go to voicemail, but try to call back immediately when it is more appropriate for you to talk.

Talk Enthusiastically

Since the interviewer will not see your face, all they have to work off of is the voice you present, so make sure it sounds enthusiastic and energized with confidence. Try keeping a smile on your face as you talk and be aware of your tone and pitch so you do not come off sounding monotone.

Watch Your Words

Keep a “can do” attitude when you talk. It will leave a more positive impression than if an employer were to hear, “I can’t,” “I don’t,” or “I haven’t.” Also be conscious of how you speak, to avoid the “Ahs,” “Errs” and “Ums.” You can come across as unsure of yourself and lacking in confidence.

Use A Clear Line

Many people list their cell phone number on job applications, cover letters and resumes, which is fine, as long as when the phone is answered you are under good reception. If you are the one initiating the phone call, use a landline to avoid static or dropped calls. It’s also important to find a quiet location where you will not be disturbed or distracted.

Treat It Like An In-Person Interview

Keep in mind points that you can use to help explain how your previous experiences or skills make you a good fit for the open position. Also, always have questions in mind to ask during the interview that show your interest and desire to work with the company. Don’t forget to also keep your resume, a sheet of paper and pen on hand. You’ll need these items for reference or to take notes while on the call.

Find Out The Next Steps

Interviews, whether in-person or over the phone, should end with an understanding of what the next steps are. If it was not covered, be sure to ask. The employer may also view this question in a positive way that you care about this opportunity and have a desire for it.

Remember, phone interviews deserve a follow up thank you note or e-mail to the individual(s) you spoke with – just as you would do after an in-person interview.

Treat phone interviews as important as a face-to-face interview. The impression you make on the phone will also be taken in to consideration when the employer is trying to decide between you and another candidate for the position.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

Related Posts

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make In A Phone Interview
Do You Dread A Phone Interview Or Networking Call?
Interview Success Formula: Get Your Game Face On

Don Goodman

About the author

Don Goodman’s firm was rated as the #1 Resume Writing Service in 2013 & 2014. Don is a triple-certified, nationally recognized Expert Resume Writer, Career Management Coach and Job Search Strategist who has helped thousands of people secure their next job. Check out his Resume Writing Service. Get a Free Resume Evaluation or call him at 800.909.0109  for more information.


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Don Goodman

Don Goodman, President of Best Resume Writing Service - About Jobs is a nationally recognized career expert. Get a free career assessment from Don here.


  1. Whatever you do, please do not accept an invitation for a lunchtime phone interview and then take the call in a busy, loud restaurant. I interviewed a young man who ordered his meal, including his alcoholic beverage of choice. Turned out he wasn’t returning to the office, so why didn’t he schedule our interview for later that afternoon in a quiet place? The job required excellent judgment, and since he showed none, he did not get a call back.

  2. On phone interviews, I find it helpful to be able to stand and move around (quietly). It seems to help convey my energy level, along with my smile. Also, I try to project a little extra warmth, for want of a better word, into my speaking voice. Best to everyone!

  3. Deanna,

    Listen learned here.. always get a name and contact info.

    In this situation call the front desk and say “I was just speaking to XYZ in HR but didn’t get her last name and I wanted to send her a thank you note. Can you help?”

    Get the full name and ask for the email protocol.

    “So I would assume that her email address is

    That should work.

  4. I just received an impromptu call from HR to ask a few questions about my application. Since it was via telephone call, I do not have her email or even her full name. How do I send a thank you note?

    • Deanna, you might have missed the opportunity this time around, but next time, it would be OK to ask them to repeat their name and if they were willing to share an email in case you had a question. Congrats on the phone call!

  5. Caroline,

    Did you know that your body language and intonation make up 88% of your effectiveness in communicating?

    Perhaps you were a bit flat on the phone.

    On a phone interview, you only have your intonation so mix it up, show enthusiasm about the opportunity and smile when you speak. Also try to build rapport as people hire people that they like.

    Contagious enthusiasm is real and makes you stand out.

  6. Good points on phone interviews, but one very pertinent issue is not being addressed: the experience, or lack thereof, the person doing the phone interview. How often do we end up speaking to a junior level recruiter who has maybe 2 years of work experience and knows nothing about the job being offered? Not long ago I had a phone interview with someone who frankly admitted they had no knowledge of what the position entails or even what the qualifications were! Phone interviews need to be conducted by a hiring manager or at least a senior HR manager who has at least a passing familiarity with not only the job but industry terms and culture. It is an insult to job seekers to have their credibility put on the line by someone whose only qualification is that they can read from a sheet of questions prepped by someone else.

    The process has to have a certain level of credibility built into it, and the all-too-common practice of having a junior staffer read questions that they themselves cannot comprehend just shows a lack of respect for the hiring process and a lack of respect for the candidate themselves.

  7. Great article! I have one question – it’s only happened once, but did leave me wondering how to handle. I did a phone interview several years ago and when I met the hiring manager he told me that I sounded like a ‘teacher’ on the phone and I sounded older than I was. He went off the rails (inappropriate) questions in general, but I have sometimes wondered how to handle this. Clearly I can’t change my voice and other people tell me that I’m pleasantly enthusiastic and warm on calls. Any tips?

    • The Interviewer in this case was clearly either inexperienced or not well versed on the “do’s and don’t’s” of fair and legal interviewing practices. If you are ever faced with this situation again; revert the conversation back to relevant and tangible job related topics. You can also be very frank and inquire how the inappropriate inquiry/question and/or comment is relevant to the interview process and assessment. You’d like to focus more on answering questions which aren’t personal in nature but directly related to the job and your experience! Of course, there are some time when HR professionals such as myself in the talent acqusition function will want to learn more about fit and how you will fit into the business culture. Small talk and ice-breakers are completely fine; it helps to learn more about the kind of person you would be hiring, but there must be a balance!

    • Hi Caroline, I have a few thoughts for you:

      1) Get feedback from other people to see if this is something other people identify about your voice or if this guy was just random and didn’t know what he was talking about.

      2) Smiling into the phone is actually a great suggestion. It’s amazing how much that can change what is heard on the other end of the line.

      3) Consider a voice coach if you really believe your voice might be keeping your from opportunities. I’ve sent clients to voice coaches before, and it can really make a difference.

      • Thanks, Cecelia. I think it might have been this one guy because I’ve made it to in-person interviews every other time I’ve done phone interviews. Given the other questions he asked in person (illegal, actually, which I pointed out to him and that was enough for me to know I didn’t want to work for him) and that i’ve never had this problem since, I think it was him. But appreciate the tips, really great.

  8. Job seekers, do not be afraid to tell the caller that it’s not a good time and reschedule! I coach my clients to always communicate that it is a bad time and schedule an actual time for the interview. (I recommend they say something like they are about to go into a scheduled appointment.) If a company is not agreeable to that, then they are not a company worth considering.

    You deserve the chance to be 100% composed with any documents/notes needed to be your best.

    • Good suggestion. I like and need that.

      Yesterday I did phone interview. When I heard the silent or the typing or little cold voice, I could not focus on my answering. I feel so bad.

      • Lily, don’t beat yourself up! You will learn from each interview. Mock interviews are also a great way to practice. I help people with those. Email if you’d like to explore working with me – cecilia[at]

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