telephone interview

How to make a strong application – Part 7: The telephone interview

In our ‘How to apply for a job’ series, we tell you everything you need to know about choosing and applying for jobs – from the question “What do I want to do?”, to the perfect job application photo, to the interview stage.


More and more interviews nowadays are being conducted over the phone or via Skype. For companies, this has the advantage of saving on time and travel expenses. But you as a candidate also stand to benefit, because it means you don’t need to take so much time off work. The tricky thing about telephone interviews is that the familiar surroundings of your own home can often lull you into making careless mistakes – you might find yourself being too casual in your body language or in the way you speak to your interviewer. This can be dangerous, because you risk looking unprofessional.

It is important, therefore, that you prepare for a telephone or Skype interview just as thoroughly as you would for a face-to-face interview.

Plan the time and place carefully

Firstly, you should arrange an appointment with the personnel manager in advance: make sure it is at a time when you will definitely be available and when you don’t have any appointments scheduled immediately afterwards. An interview can take anything from a few minutes to over an hour, and it would be awkward to have to cut short your interview for the sake of another appointment.

Your surroundings are very important when it comes to this type of interview. Make sure you are alone, and that there won’t be any disruptive noises during the interview. For a Skype interview you also need to be very aware of what the personnel manager will be able to see in the background during your interview, and make sure your dirty dishes are not on show! The ideal setting is somewhere with a neutral backdrop that will not cause the interviewer to have any preconceptions about you.

Get the lighting right

However good your webcam is, if it has to contend with backlighting (from a window behind you, for example), inadequate light or stark contrasts, it will struggle to produce good results. Bad lighting can make you look like a zombie; light can reflect off your glasses so that your eyes can’t be seen, and so on. Before the interview, check that your face is evenly lit and that there are no shadows on it.

The clothes make the man

Even for a Skype interview, it is very important to dress appropriately: business attire is best for more conservative sectors, and more casual outfits for more modern employers. Even if you have a traditional telephone interview and the interviewer can’t see you, your choice of clothing will affect how you feel, and help you to sound more professional.

Before the interview starts

Don’t forget to prepare thoroughly for what you are going to say in the interview. Read through the job advert and your own application again, to make sure you can answer any questions that may come up. Be clear about what you are aiming to achieve in this interview – i.e. selling yourself as a potential employee. Keep a glass of still water to hand in case you get nervous and your mouth starts to feel dry. It’s best to avoid fizzy drinks, as they may cause you to burp – and slurping on hot drinks is not advisable either.

The power of words

Since the interviewer can’t see you during a telephone interview, you should pay even greater attention to your choice of words. But in Skype interviews too, it’s important to use positive language:

Instead of Try
problem challenge/opportunity
not bad good
impersonal pronouns we/you/I
never rarely, hardly ever
I don’t know I’ll look into that
you’re mistaken did you mean…?
no problem of course/absolutely fine


There are a few expressions you should steer clear of if at all possible:

  • problem
  • actually
  • could, would, would have
  • practically
  • asap
  • erm
  • lots of repetition

You can practise this at home with friends or family beforehand.

To help you succeed in your Skype or telephone interview, we’ve summarised the most important points for you below:

Skype or telephone interview checklist

  • Find a quiet environment with a neutral backdrop.
  • Before the interview, remind yourself of what you hope to achieve → you want to convince the personnel manager that you are exactly the right person for the job being advertised. But you also want to find out whether the job and the company are right for you.
  • Keep important documents to hand (your application documents, for example).
  • Smile – this will have a positive effect on your tone of voice and make you sound more personable.
  • Speak clearly and precisely.
  • Remember the interviewer’s name (write it down at the beginning).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you didn’t hear something or if the connection is bad.
  • Let the interviewer finish speaking.
  • Say thank you at the end of the interview.


What phases an interview has and how you leave a positive mark, we will show you in the next episode.

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