What is a Telephone Interview?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Telephone interviews have become one of the most popular ways to conduct a one-on-one meeting when geography presents a challenge. Essentially, this is simply a situation in which a telephone call is used to create the foundation for an interactive meeting in which one party is conducting an interview with a second party. There are a few applications that are normally associated with this type of interview that make it both time and cost efficient.

Telephone interviews are used by companies to communicate with prospective employees.
Telephone interviews are used by companies to communicate with prospective employees.

It has become very popular to use a telephone interview to interview potential employees. In some instances, this type of interaction is used as a screening method. People who express interest in a particular position with a company have a chance to speak with a representative of the corporation and answer some basic questions. Since location is not an issue, it is possible for applicants who live in remote areas to apply for work and have the chance to make a good impression. If the responses meet with approval, then arrangements can be made for the individual to travel to a designated location for a face-to-face meeting with the employer.

Reporters and other news media figures often conduct telephone interviews.
Reporters and other news media figures often conduct telephone interviews.

With so many companies using the services of remote employees, the telephone is often the ideal medium for a job interview. This makes it possible for people who are well versed in customer care, indirect sales, and other work that can primarily be conducted over the telephone to apply for a job with just about any company that sees value in telecommuting. From this perspective, interviews over the telephone are not only convenient, they also provide the employer with a first hand experience of the phone presence of the individual.

Along with job interviews, the telephone interview can also be helpful for individuals who are involved with the news media. Writers who need to speak with an expert regarding material or facts related to a project often find that that many busy people are willing to carve out time for ten-minute phone call and answer a few questions. Communicating in this way allows the writer to get information quickly, and without taking up a lot of the expert’s time. The result is two happy professionals who can use the extra time to get on with other tasks.

For many decades, radio personalities have relied on telephone interviews with celebrities such as music stars and other public figures. The idea is to set up an interview that can be broadcast live or recorded for playback later. The celebrity does not have to come to the radio station and does not even have to be in the same city. Musical performers often use this strategy as a way of promoting an upcoming performance in a given city. In other instances, the radio announcer may use the interview to discuss matters of local political interest with elected officials. There is also the ability to interview authors of books that have interest to the listening audience, and as a means of allowing a the director of a local, state, or national charity to answer questions about an upcoming fundraising project of drive.

Radio personalities often conduct telephone interviews with famous or important people live on the air.
Radio personalities often conduct telephone interviews with famous or important people live on the air.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I do not have a very pretty voice and I think I come across terrible in phone interviews. Is there a way to get a nicer sounding voice?


These days, a lot of telephone interviews are done over Skype rather than over the phone. This makes sense, but really it just presents a bigger headache for the person being interviewed. There is not honestly much to be gained from being seen in that way, but you still have to be conscious of your hair and clothes and makeup if your are a woman. It is like you have all the hassle of a face to face interview but none of the reward.


Useful overview. I think people can get too concerned about telephone interviews. Effectively, it is like any other interview but it is not face to face.


@Sunshine31- I agree with you and I also wanted to say that you have to think about your telephone interview answers that you are going to give. Having answers ready helps to move the interview along with making sure that you have a quiet background.

I was a recruiter and called someone for a phone interview and there was so much background noise that I could not concentrate on the interview. The candidate did not progress because I was a little turned off by her lack of professionalism.

I felt that my time was valuable and unfortunately the distractions did not allow me to get to know the candidate. So my telephone interview advice is to make sure that you have a quiet background when the interviewer calls.


@BrickBack - I think that a telephone job interview should be followed up with an email that shows your appreciation for the interview. This is the best telephone interview advice that someone once gave me.

You would be surprised at how little importance some people give this form of etiquette but it makes a big difference because it shows that you have manners and are detailed oriented.

It will also probably raise your chances of getting the job, or at least getting a face to face interview.


@AlanJ - I think that it is normal to be a little nervous during a phone interview and I think that in order to prepare you should consider potential interview questions ahead of time.

You will also want to briefly let the interviewer know of your accomplishments because you really don’t have a lot of time in a phone interview so you want to let them get a sense that you can do the job that they need you to do and do it well.

The great thing about the telephonic interview is that you can have a list of questions in front of you, so at the end of the telephone screening interview when the interviewer asks if you have any questions you can ask the questions directly from your paper and do not have to worry about memorizing the questions.


Has anyone got any telephone interview tips? I'm a bit nervous when I have to have a face to face interview, but at least you can see who you're talking to and judge how they're responding to you.

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