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The Telephone Interview – 3 Questions to Ask Ahead of Time

September 26, 2012 by  
Filed under General

Employers will often use telephone interviews to prescreen potential candidates. This almost always happens when their recruiters are headquartered out of your area. It’s also a huge time saver for the employer – even if you’re just across town. Telephone interviews allow the employer to preselect candidates before investing in face-to-face interviews. In my past, as an executive recruiter, I often telephoned potential candidates prior to meeting them. This screened out a number of candidates and allowed me to spend more time with those who fit the criteria of the job during face-to-face interviews.

The telephone interview may also be used when the responsibilities of the job will require you to communicate with clients, colleagues or executives by phone. It may also be done because your future manager or team is based in another city, and should you get the position, you will be reporting in to them long distance.

When scheduling your interview, make sure to ask these 3 important questions:

#1. Ask how much time you should set aside.

#2. Ask the name, title or position of each person who will be interviewing you. This is important because the position of the interviewer tells you something about the focus of questions you will be asked. Someone from Human Resources, for example, would be questioning for overall fit and will ask questions about your resume and / or behavioral questions related to the job description. A direct manager will ask more in-depth questions about your skills and experience as they relate to the position, and a more senior manager will question you more on overall fit and what you know about the company. Being prepared for every level of manager who may appear on the call (even unexpectedly) is vital.  A few sessions with an Interview Coach can make a world of difference in preparedness for this.

*It’s definitely worth the extra effort to research online each of those you will meet by phone (i.e., Linkedin and Google). Obviously this is true for in-person interviews as well.

#3. Finally, ask if you should call the employer or if they will be calling you. If they will be calling you, give a phone number where you will not have any interruptions.


A word of caution: Use a landline if your cell phone does not have reliable service. If you are using a cell phone, make sure your phone is charged. You can plug in the charger while you talk so you don’t have to worry about talking too long and depleting your battery.  If you have call waiting on your cell or landline, disable it by hitting *70 before dialing.  Remember that a quality headset is an important tool for this purpose – it allows you to take notes, walk around freely, and basically not be involved with the equipment. Having your papers neat and accessible to you means BOTH hands should be free.  Always test your headset thoroughly before the interview.


Ellyn Small Enisman, LCSW, Certified Coach
Interview Coach
Author of the highly acclaimed book,Job Interview Skills 101

PS: To receive more great tips and advice on getting the interview and sidestepping some of the most classic mistakes, sign up for my newsletter at


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Hans-Hans, Gettysburg College
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