Phone Interview Guide - Zinny Factor

Having a phone interview is becoming the norm when it comes to the initial stages of the interview process for many companies. As a result, it’s worth preparing for since it determines how you’ll progress to the next phase of the interview.

Understandably, this can be difficult for some candidates to pull through as you can’t see the other person’s facial expression. In this article, we will provide a guide throughout the entire process to keep you informed.

As always, we apply real-life situations in providing you with solutions. We have also included sample responses and templates in this article which you can tailor to your phone interview.

Typically, phone interviews are scheduled well ahead of time. You already submitted an amazing resume that caught the recruiter’s interest, then you receive an email that requests a convenient time for a quick chat- it’s pretty straight forward. In some other cases, it might be an unscheduled call that you may receive.

Generally, most companies adopt the practice of scheduling as this helps you get prepared, however, some companies may treat it otherwise for whatever business reasons. So what do you do? Keep reading for more info.

1. When the phone interview is unscheduled

a. Ensure you have a professional voicemail message. If you don’t have one, set it up now.

Sample voicemail:

“Hi, this is [Your Name], thanks for reaching out to me, unfortunately, I’m unavailable at the moment. Please leave your name, message and contact info and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day, thank you!”

b. If you receive a call and not sure who it’s from, you can search for the phone number on Google. If the number is properly registered, you will figure out the employer. If not, replay the voicemail left to figure this out.

c. We generally advise that when you receive an unscheduled call, you can request another time to talk, even if for a few couple hours to help you prepare ahead. The recruiter will usually ask you if it’s a good time to speak. A good employer will understand that you have priorities and your time is important.

Sample response:

“Thanks for your call. Unfortunately, I am busy at the moment. Could we reschedule for a more convenient time?”

If you’ve been looking out for an interview, we can imagine that you may be tilting towards moving forward with an unscheduled phone interview and we understand this. However, it’s always best to be amply prepared.

If you choose to move forward with an unscheduled phone interview, ensure that you’ve been preparing long ahead of time for possible questions. Alternatively, you could do a quick search for the company on Google while on the call to quickly refresh your mind on the role and the specific requirements.

2. Before a scheduled phone interview

We recommend that you check out this article on Interview Preparation 101: How To Excel it covers information to help you for your interview as well as a step-by-step guide, screenshots, and important resources to assist you.

Confirm who the interviewer will be

Confirm who you’ll be speaking with. Review the email you must have received and research on the interviewer on LinkedIn. Understand the interviewer’s current role, growth within the company, previous roles, and expertise, etc. This will give you a sense of questions to expect based on their expertise.

Confirm your salary expectation

Some companies will ask your salary expectation during the phone interview. As a result, it’s best to do your research via Glassdoor salary reviews or Indeed, etc. to figure out what will make a competitive salary for the role is.

In discussing salary at this stage, it’s advisable to not give a specific number to maintain some upper hand during your negotiation afterward. You can give a range which will be the least amount you are comfortable with accepting and the most you’ll be happy with.

Read: Step-By-Step Guide: How to Negotiate Your Job Offer

Sample responses:

“Do you mind sharing what the salary range for this position is?”

Do not be afraid of asking this question. If the recruiter still asks for a specific salary expectation, you can give a range and say the following:

“I am open to negotiation. I will be looking at compensation within the range of $$$$ to $$$$.”

Prepare your notes

You have an advantage when preparing for a phone interview – you can prepare out talking points. Use stick notes to really help you stay focused during the interview if you are comfortable with this.

We created the Ultimate Job Interview Preparation Guide to help you plan towards that interview! All you’ll need next is some confidence and enthusiasm. Download it!

You can also pull up your resume to easily refer/ flow through your career progression when answering questions that come up.

Consider possible interview questions

We’ll refer you to this previous article: How to Answer Commonly Asked Interview Questions & Sample Responses. It contains helpful tips that have helped a number of our readers.

3. During the phone interview


Since it’s a phone interview, you’ll need to apply some active listening before responding to the questions. Take breaks before responding to questions and ensure you are in a quiet space to take the call.

Try to speak slowly so that the recruiter understands you easily and you don’t sound nervous (even though you may be!)

Create a relationship

For a phone interview, it’s really important to be conversational because this helps build trust between yourself and the interviewer. Start with some small talk about the weather, how you are looking forward to speaking more about the role in general and the interview, and so on.

Laugh where necessary and generally be friendly as this goes far in building your relationship especially since there is no in-person contact or communication via phone and the communication cues will be mostly verbal.

Prepare questions

Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. This could relate to the role you are interviewing for, the company and culture, and next steps for the interview process and when you can expect to hear back. It can also be questions on something the recruiter might have explained which you need to follow up answers on.

How do you read emotions from the interviewer?

Look out for non verbal cues while the conversation is ongoing. Is the interview following up on something you said last or not? When you ask a question, does the interviewer respond to you or brush it up? Id the recruiter actively listening or trying to quickly brush through the interview?

These are signs to help you know if the interview is going well. Now, you may have negative emotions towards the interview but that doesn’t mean you should loose all hope. At this point, you need to be engaging as much as possible. You may try to slow down on your responses and speak slowly. Try to crack a joke while speaking about your experience by intentionally saying something a little funny without deviating from the conversation.

Sample follow up:

“…From my experience, some clients may want something beyond the scope of a project. I can imagine that you might have gone through a similar situation working with clients, I think many of us go through this at some point in a client facing job [Insert subtle laughter and look out for response] which doesn’t make the client bad, it’s how we go about reaching mutual grounds that matters.”

As you can imagine, this is a way of arriving at a spot where you and the recruiter have some common grounds to laugh and casually reflect on the role and expertise required. Ensure that you are not being insulting or too pushy with trying to make a joke.

4. After the phone interview

Try to send a thank you note, follow up via email as this helps ring a bell in the interviewer’s mind.

Sample email:

“Hi [Recruiter’s name],

It was a pleasure speaking to you concerning the [Position/ Role] today. I wanted to let you know how excited I am concerning this position.

Please let me know if there is any additional information you may need from my end to help make your hiring decision easier. Thanks and have a great day!


[Your Name]

Have any follow-up questions or need us to cover a specific topic? Feel free to let us know. We are here to assist you in getting your dream job and growing your career. We will be happy to answer any questions. You can leave a comment below or send us a quick message via email. Check out other Prime articles.