How to Pass a Phone Interview

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Interviewing candidates is just one small part of a recruiter’s job, but it is one of the most important parts. Due to high volumes of requisitions, many recruiters begin the interview process with a phone interview.

Unfortunately, in my experience, many candidates fail to treat a phone interview with the same level of professionalism as they would an in-person interview. However, with these simple tips you can nail a phone interview and land that face-to-face meeting.

1. Do Your Research

Become familiar with the company you are interviewing for and the person you will be speaking with. Get a general sense of what the company does and how the role you are interviewing for would fit within the organization. Asking a recruiter what the company does is the fastest way to get eliminated from the interview process as it shows a lack of preparation and respect for the recruiter’s time.

2. Be on Time

Be ready to answer a recruiter’s call at least five minutes before the scheduled time. Also, be sure to ask in advance what number they will be calling from. Occasionally, I have had a call go to voicemail, and then the candidate calls back 20 minutes later explaining they didn’t answer because they didn’t recognize the phone number. If you are expecting a call at a certain time, be sure to answer that call.

A recruiter’s day is usually scheduled pretty meticulously, so missing a scheduled call and then calling back 15 minutes later can throw them off schedule for other interviews. Recruiters will find this extremely frustrating and disrespectful.

3. Be Prepared

Before you answer the recruiter’s call, ensure that you will be able to focus during the conversation and that you will be able to effectively communicate. Find a spot in your home, office, coffee shop, or car free of interruptions or background noise. A recruiter does not want to be interrupted by you yelling at your dog or a loud car passing by.

Also, confirm that you are in an area with strong cell phone reception. A dropped phone interview is usually not a successful one.

4. Ask Questions

As you research the company, take notes and make a list of questions that you have for the recruiter. Many of your questions may be answered during the interview; make sure you prepare a long enough list so you’ll have questions to ask at the end no matter what.

The questions should be focused on the company, the job, and the responsibilities. The initial phone interview is not the appropriate time to discuss salary or benefits unless the recruiter brings the topic up first.

Don’t ask questions that can be easily answered by a trip to the company’s website. If the only question you ask is “Where is your office located?” you can probably expect to get passed over for the position.

A recruiter may not have the final say on whether or not you are hired for the position, but they are the ones who make recommendations to hiring managers and present your case as a strong candidate. During a phone interview, a recruiter is usually looking to get a better idea of your background and the motivations behind your job search. They are also looking to see if you did your research and were prepared for the phone interview. If you are not prepared and respectful of their time, they won’t trust you to present yourself well to a hiring manager. As a result, they will disqualify you from the interview process.

Carly Simms is the founder and owner of Hummingbird Recruiting.

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Carly graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in English. After graduation, she relocated to Southern California to begin her career as a recruiter. Carly has five years of agency and in-house recruiting experience and has worked for both startup and Fortune 500 companies in a wide variety of industries. Throughout the progression of her career, she has learned what top companies are looking for and how to identify that talent. She can also help candidates target their job searches and ensure that their resumes stand out. She is the founder and owner of Hummingbird Recruiting, where she serves as a recruiting consultant to assist employers and job seekers in simplifying the recruiting process. To learn more about her services, please visit or email her at [email protected]