Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

How to apply for a job over the phone

Phone interviews of job candidates are conducted by employers at all stages of the interview process. Many companies use phone calls as a first-strike tactic, phoning candidates who applied for a position via mail, e-mail or Internet. Employers screen potential employees, feeling them out and eliminating those they feel aren't up to snuff. Follow-up calls for formal interviews save both you and the company time and money by foregoing the need for travel, especially if you aren't in the same city or state as the company. Preparation is the key to any interview, including those conducted by phone.

Excuse yourself politely if you receive a surprise phone call from a potential employer in response to a resume you submitted. If the person on the other end of the line requests an immediate interview, simply say something like, "I'm just headed out the door for an appointment." Ask the person's name, the company and job position, and request a time that you can call back, or ask the person to return the call at a specified time, in order to allow yourself time to prepare. If you're nervous, practice responses to mock questions, and make sure you can properly pronounce the person's name, as well as the company's.

Prepare beforehand if you have a scheduled phone interview. Review the resume that you sent to the company and have a copy handy. Go online and research the company and have its home page or other relevant information on your computer screen. Know the company's business and history. Take notes, including questions to ask the interviewer.

Choose a location where you won't be distracted or interrupted. Don't have a radio or TV playing. Avoid conducting the interview at work, outside or in your car. Use a landline, instead of a cell phone, if possible (or at least make sure your cell is charged).

Speak clearly and confidently once you receive the call. If the interviewer is calling back, as requested, thank her for accommodating you; you might say:"Thanks for calling back. I apologise for the delay, but I simply couldn't miss that 2 p.m. appointment." Let the interviewer carry the conversation at this point, and don't interrupt.

Take notes. If new information is provided about the job or company, jot it down and refer to it later. Don't be afraid to ask for information to be repeated.

Anticipate certain questions. Most interviewers will ask about your strengths and weaknesses, about previous jobs and why you liked or disliked them, why you left former employers, and what you consider a major professional achievement. They might request that you detail a project you deem well done. These are questions you can expect from any interviewer, so have answers written down and commit them to memory. It shouldn't be difficult. It is, after all, your life and career that you're describing. Be prepared to discuss salary and benefits. Have a good idea of your worth in the market; don't sell yourself short.

Tell the interviewer why you want to work for her company, if not asked directly. Incorporate company details, history and milestones, and toot your own horn when given the opportunity. It's not inappropriate to say something like, "In reviewing the position's job description, I was amazed at how much experience I have in nearly every duty and responsibility outlined."

Thank the interviewer for her time and consideration when the interview is concluded. Tell her you look forward to a personal interview to further discuss her company's needs and your qualifications. Write down any information regarding a follow-up call or meeting. Make sure to inform her of your availability date.


Make sure that your answering machine or voicemail contains a professional greeting. A potential employer who encounters "Party on!" may not be inclined to call back. Keep a beverage close by when on the phone, and don't chew gum or smoke, as the interviewer will detect it. Alert the interviewer if you have children in the house. Put the dog outside or in another room.

Things Needed

  • Notes and questions to ask
  • Resume
  • Pen and paper
  • Job and company information (possibly on screen)

About the Author

John Kibilko has been writing professionally since 1979. He landed his first professional job with "The Dearborn Press" while still in college. He has since worked as a journalist for several Wayne County newspapers and in corporate communications. He has covered politics, health care, automotive news and police and sports beats. Kibilko earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Wayne State University.

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