Telephone Interview

woman on phone at laptop
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A telephone interview is a job interview where the hiring manager and candidate converse over the phone. Organizations typically use phone interviews to turn a list of a dozen or so candidates into a handful of finalists.

Why Do Companies Conduct Telephone Interviews?

Telephone interviews help organizations save time and money. Telephone interviews tend to be shorter than in-person interviews and require less effort to set up.

Organizations also avoid reimbursing travel expenses of candidates who have no realistic chance at landing the job. Organizations can screen out candidates who look better on paper than they are in real life.

In most cases, a candidate cannot win the job over the phone. However, a job can be lost over the phone. It is important for candidates to prepare for phone interviews with the same effort they would for in-person interviews. If a candidate botches a phone interview, there won’t be an in-person interview.


  • An executive search firm has been hired by a city to recruit candidates for the vacant city manager position. The city receives more than 100 application packets. The company screens the applications for minimum and preferred requirements. Before it recommends a shortlist of finalists to the city council, the company conducts brief phone interviews with the top 20 candidates to make make sure they do not have a dud in their shortlist. The are also able to maintain a list of backup finalists if no one in the first set is hired.
  • A state agency has a vacant executive director position. It recruits heavily for out-of-state candidates. The agency decides to conduct phone interviews with all out-of-state candidates who meet the minimum selection criteria for the position. It does this for two reasons. First, it does not want to fly in a finalist would will interview poorly. Second, it wants to investigate how applicable each out-of-state candidate’s experience is to the challenges the new executive director will face.