Call me: Telephone interview hints

James McCrostie


Few people would consider a job interview a pleasant way to pass the time but phone interviews tend to be especially nerve-wracking. When interviewing by phone, getting feedback and selling yourself often prove more difficult than in face-to-face interviews. Nevertheless, schools, especially when hiring from overseas, often use phone interviews to trim the list of candidates to those good enough for face-to-face interviews. Here are some tips to help you survive the cut.


Before the interview

1) Make an appointment for the call so you can avoid the dreaded surprise interview situation. To avoid confusion with time zones and daylight saving time always springing forward and falling back refer to <>.

2) Read over your resume to refresh your memory of the accomplishments and embellishments that you listed.

3) Prepare notes on what you want to say and prepare point form answers for questions you know are likely to come up; for example: Why do you want to work at this school? When the fluttering sounds made by the flock of butterflies in your stomach make it hard to hear the interviewer on the other end of the line, these notes will help you stay on track.

4) Treat the phone interview as seriously as a face-to-face interview. Some teachers seem to think phone interviews are a meaningless hoop to jump through. They rarely land the job. Practice by calling a friend and having them ask you the standard interview questions.


During the interview

1) Be prepared; have the job ad, a copy of your application materials, and a pen and paper to take notes.

2) Dress for success. Some people find wearing their recruit suit helps them sound more professional. Others want to relax and would perform better in their casual Friday attire. Decide what clothes will help you function best.

3) If there’s more than one interviewer, the hiring committee will usually introduce themselves far too quickly and then start firing questions at you. Don’t be afraid to confirm people’s names and write them down before beginning the interview in earnest.

4) One of the greatest challenges posed by phone interviews is the lack of eye contact and visual cues of support such as head nodding. Without these signs, many people end up nattering away and giving overly detailed answers. Since you can’t see if the interviewers are rolling their eyes because you won’t shut up, answer questions clearly but without going into too much detail, and then offer to develop the answer further.

5) When the interview comes to a close, thank the interviewer for their time. If the interviewer doesn’t tell you, make sure to ask about the next stage in the hiring process.


Further reading

Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center. (2002). What about telephone interviews?Teacher Portfolio and Preparation Series. [Online] Available:<>.

Dowdall, J. (2001). When you can’t be there in person. The Chronicle of Higher Education. [Online] Available: <>.