Preparing for a telephone interview

Telephone and Skype interviews are often used by employers in the first stage of the interview process, as it is a quick and easy way to screen a large pool of candidates before deciding upon a shortlist to interview face-to-face. Despite seeming informal, you should prepare in the same way you would for a face-to-face interview. Have your CV and cover letter in front of you for some guidance.

The first thing to do is look at the job description and imagine the questions you are likely to be asked.

To prepare for competency-based interview questions, use the STAR technique to prepare well-structured examples that you can use for the interview to demonstrate you have the skills and experience they’re looking for. 


Situation: I took part in a volunteering scheme in El Salvador last summer.

Task: Our team of five had to arrange an event in a rural community. I was responsible for
marketing the event.

Action: I worked with local sponsors to raise money for the event by advertising it on the
local radio station, creating flyers and posting them in the nearby villages and by
asking community groups to share the information with their members.

Result: On the day, over three hundred people attended the event and the sponsors were
very happy with the turnout.

Looking at the job description and person specification, practice a STAR example for each of the desired skills/experience, drawing on as many diverse examples as possible.

Top tips

  • Have your CV and cover letter in front of you so you can refer to these during the interview if you need to. You can make brief notes as you prepare and refer to these too.
  • Be ready to take the call. Sit in a quiet location with good signal; in a chair, at a table if possible. Dress the part too if that helps you get into interview mode. Answer the phone with a polite “Hello, [name] speaking”.
  • Smile. Your facial expression comes across in your voice and smiling helps you not to sound flat over the phone.

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