How to prepare for a telephone interview | Sunday Observer

How to prepare for a telephone interview

14 August, 2022

In the article last week, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of telephone employment interviews. As discussed, at this time of crisis, lowering costs is one of the key aspects of doing business in Sri Lanka.

Hence, preliminary screenings of job applicants are an effective mode of cutting down costs, among other many benefits of telephone interviewing. Telephone interviews effectively and efficiently narrow down the options and select candidates for final selection.

Typically, in developed countries, phone interviews are scheduled well in advance, most often by using automated interview scheduling through software applications. The intention of the pre-scheduling, or giving a date and a time, is for the candidates to prepare themselves adequately for the interview.

In the Sri Lankan context, interviewers can send an email, text message, or use any type of social media platform to schedule an interview. They may even use all three communication methods to make it more effective.


The candidates, on the other hand, must prepare adequately for anticipated questions by the interviewer after a date and a time are received. It is extremely important to understand that some initial questions are typical and common to most interviewers, but the contents of subsequent questions can be drastically different.

Hence, my advice to applicants is that, apart from their personal details such as education, previous jobs, and experience, they must thoroughly and systematically research the employers.

Also, during the interview, the candidates must try to relate education and experience to the employers’ nature of the business. This will not only undeniably help answer unanticipated questions by the interviewer but also will be a definite way of establishing professional trust and impressing them successfully.

How should a candidate prepare for a telephone interview? You must first convince yourself that you have asked for the interview with the intention of obtaining employment and that the call is more important to you than to the interviewer. Therefore, I suggest that you treat the occasion as special to you and set your mind up for victory.

You know now the date and time the interview takes place. The first and most important preparation must be to set up a comfortable space for the interview. You must choose a comfortable place that is free of distractions and disturbing background noise. During a telephone interview, unlike an in-person interview where the location is specific, a slight outside distraction can be disastrous to the flow.

Be there a few minutes ahead of the scheduled time to get comfortable and relax before the call. Keep the printed application (or computer screen) ready in front of you, a pen, a notepad, and any other stationery you may require. Try your best not to pick up the phone in a rush or miss the call. Using a head or earphone is recommended as it provides more animated responses from you.

It is a discussion where the person speaking to you cannot see you physically. Yet, in my opinion, as a candidate, you must dress for success. It does not mean that you have to be fully dressed as if you are attending a face-to-face discussion.

However, instead of wearing casual clothing you normally wear at home, it is good to be in interview-appropriate dress as such preparations give the candidate more confidence. In particular, a proper dress may take off the feeling of distance and establish the mood of an in-person interview.

Bridging the impersonal gap

You may have already heard and/or experienced that, in a telephone conversation, the person on the other end can imagine the picture of the other.  Even though you are not physically visible to your potential employer over the phone, it is possible for him to see your smile.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance for you to keep smiling and maintain a pleasant disposition as if you were in a face-to-face discussion. Your pleasant and friendly smile can also help bridge the impersonal gap. Brainstorming possible questions and answers is one of the best ways to prepare for a telephone interview. Remember that, unlike in-person interviews, there cannot be too much pause between questions and answers. Your muteness of even more than a minute can break the flow of the conversation, which can make the interviewer unhappy.

Therefore, the best way to organise yourself is to keep possible answers ready before the interview. If you are genuinely interested in securing the job, you may even conduct mock sessions with the help of family or friends.

During an in-person interview, you cannot look at a sheet of paper as you have to maintain eye contact with the recruiter. However, as the phone calls are not visual, you are free to look at any note to double-check before answering a question. This ensures that you are not missing critical points. 

Hence, my advice to the interviewees is to keep fact sheets that include important details about the company, examples of your success stories, related experiences, and questions you may want to ask the interviewer. This sheet of paper, which some people call a “cheat sheet,” not only helps you reduce the length of pause time but also provides more accurate answers. 

Invariably, at the end of most interviews, whether in-person or by phone, interviewers ask if you have any follow-up questions about the job, job description, or company. They most often expect the candidate to cross-check matters pertaining to the interview. Asking questions from the interviewer is not only a necessity but also demonstrates your confidence. Apart from questions on personal matters, it is useful to ask about company goals, potential customers, market trends, or any other related aspects. 

Positive follow-up

Like in a sale, you may lose to a stronger competitor who vies for the same job. Therefore, you must do everything possible to win. Positive follow-up is one sure way of making you stand out among competing candidates.

Therefore, writing a nicely worded note, thanking them for the opportunity provided and their time, and sending it via the same channels you have received the invitation for the interview can be incredibly effective. To an interviewer, this may indicate the finesse of your character, and that definitely is a valuable plus point.

Finally, the candidate must realise that to the interviewer, you are one among many potential recruits. His role is to assess you without physically seeing the applicant based on the manner in which you answer his interview questions.

As discussed, answering these questions where you have ways to adjust yourself without seeing has many advantages. Therefore, you have a considerably good chance of convincing the interviewer if you are amply prepared for the task.