Top tips for the perfect telephone interview

Top tips for the perfect telephone interview in China

Telephone interviews are now part and parcel of many hiring processes in China, yet they are often overlooked or can be seen as less formal, simply because they aren’t face-to-face. On the contrary, your telephone interview performance will likely dictate whether or not you are invited in for an interview or in some cases, offered the job.


Understandably, telephone interviews can sometimes feel awkward and unfamiliar. But, if you prepare properly, this stage of the process can be crucial to making a good first impression and building that all important rapport with the hiring manager early on, setting yourself apart from the other interview candidates.

These are my top tips for giving the perfect telephone interview:

Before the telephone interview:

Prepare as you would for a face-to-face interview

Ok so maybe you won’t iron your best shirt and plan your journey, but other than that, you should take the time to prepare for this telephone interview, just as you would a face-to-face one:

  • Confirm with your recruiter how long this interview will take and clear your diary for at least an hour either side of the interview so that you aren’t pushed for time
  • Research your employer and your hiring manager beforehand
  • Read the job specification thoroughly, and identify what you can bring to the role in terms of skills and experience
  • Practice answering common interview questions
  • Prepare questions to ask the interviewer at the end

Some candidates will treat the telephone interview like an “informal chat”, and do no preparation at all. These candidates rarely make it to the next stage of the hiring process.

Perfect your verbal communication skills

Fine tuning your verbal communication skills is key before a telephone interview. After all, the interviewer can’t read your body language and see your expressions over the phone. They only have your voice to focus on, thus any bad habits will be more pronounced.

Run a practice interview with a friend, and record yourself on your phone. This will help you to detect behaviours such as speaking too quickly, interrupting, mumbling, covering your mouth or using filler words such as “um” “like” and so forth.

On the day of the telephone interview

Warm up

Especially if this phone interview is first thing in the morning and you sound slightly hoarse. Do some tongue twisters and vocal exercises and drink plenty of water.

Get into a positive mind-set

Do some breathing exercises before the interview to calm your nerves, and give yourself a pep talk, reminding yourself of all of your achievements to date. I would also recommend visualising positive outcomes, such as being offered the job. This will remind you of your end goal, motivating you to give your best performance during the phone call.

Get organised

Check that you have phone signal, full battery, have the hiring manager and recruiters name and number saved on your phone. Make sure that you are clear on who is calling who, and at what time. Be ready for the call 15 minutes before, ensuring you are in a quiet space and can talk. If you are at work, step outside of the office, and if you are at home, switch off the TV and radio, and let anyone else in the house know that you can’t be interrupted for the next hour or so. Remember to also turn off your personal phone to avoid the chances of this ringing.

During the telephone interview

Answer the phone in a professional manner

Pick up within two to three rings, and answer in a professional manner, for instance, “Hello Alex speaking”. Maintain this professional tone throughout the call.

Have all the information you’ll need to hand

Keep your CV, bullet points of your key skills and achievements, plus any headline information about the company in front of you in case you get stuck. Remember not to read these notes word for word, and be careful not to shuffle the paper too loudly and give the game away!

Adjust your body language

Even though your interviewer can’t see you, getting your body language right during your telephone interview can make all the difference to how you sound and come across. Sitting up straight or standing when answering questions will improve how well you project your voice, and smiling and gesticulating will inflect a positive intonation as you speak.

Speak at an even pace

It is harder to appreciate just how fast we are speaking over the phone, especially when we are nervous. If you notice this happening, pause and take a deep breath. I would also recommend getting up and walking around, this can help you to regulate your speaking patterns and feel more at ease.

Remember your manners

Just because the interviewer can’t see you, that doesn’t mean you can get away with bad manners. Avoid eating and chewing gum, this can be very off putting for the interviewer, and certainly don’t start doing anything else which could be perceived as rude during a face-to-face interview, such as scrolling through social media on your phone or messaging your friends. It will be obvious to the interviewer that you are distracted.

Interrupting people too much is also deemed as bad manners, and unfortunately is more likely to happen during a telephone interview, mainly because you can’t read the interviewer’s visual cues in order to judge whether they have finished talking. Avoid interrupting the interviewer by pausing for a second once you think they have finished speaking, before you start responding.

Conclude as you would a face-to-face interview

On the subject of manners, remember to thank the interviewer for their time, and state that you enjoyed learning more about this opportunity. Reiterate your interest in the role, and clarify the next steps if the hiring manager hasn’t already done so.

Again, just because this isn’t a face-to-face interview, doesn’t mean you can’t leave a strong last impression with the interviewer.

After the telephone interview

After the interview, if you are still interested in taking this opportunity further, I would advise that you follow up just as you would a face-to-face interview. Phone your recruiter straight after the interview to give your feedback, and send a thank you note to the interviewer via your recruiter, affirming again, just how interested you are in this opportunity. Remember to keep your phone close by in the coming days.

Hopefully by now you are feeling clearer on how best to prepare for a telephone interview. The key is to perfect your telephone manner, specifically your verbal communication skills, and put as much effort into preparing as you would a face-to-face interview.