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Telephone interview: preparation, tips and typical questions

More and more companies are relying on telephone interviews in the application process. Mostly as a preliminary stage to the job interview and the first pre-selection of candidates. As an applicant, you should therefore expect to receive an invitation to a telephone interview. This is a good sign - your application was obviously pleased - but it presents a new challenge. Convincing people on the phone is different from talking face-to-face. We will show you how to master the telephone interview, how it works, which questions you should ask and which mistakes you should absolutely avoid ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Why telephone interviews instead of job interviews?

The telephone interview in the application process is growing in popularity. The reasons for this are economic and organizational: Telephone interviews save money and time. It is hardly possible for HR managers to conduct personal interviews with all the interesting candidates that emerge from the application documents. This would take too long. The many journeys would also result in high costs.

Telephone interview: advantages and disadvantages

Telephone interviews also have some advantages for applicants themselves. However, there are also a few disadvantages ...


+ Time and cost savings
+ No arrival
+ Nervousness remains invisible
+ Clothes are not important
+ Cheat sheet possible


- Facial expressions and body language cannot help
- Voice gets more weight
- Eloquence becomes crucial

Telephone interview: These companies use it

Here is a selection and list of companies that regularly use telephone interviews in the application process: Bechtle, Cornelsen Verlag, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank, Hays, Lidl, Xing, Zeiss.

When does the telephone interview take place?

Typically, companies send an announcement and an invitation to a telephone interview by email. Occasionally, HR professionals also rely on a surprise element and call applicants without prior notice. In this situation, it is up to you whether you get involved. Are you prepared, do you feel up to the challenge and do you have time for a spontaneous telephone interview? Then get involved in the phone call and demonstrate your competence and self-confidence.

You can also decline the “hold-up interview”. Without long justifications. Briefly apologize for not having time or another appointment. At the same time, suggest making a new appointment for the telephone interview as soon as possible and ask how long the conversation is likely to last. So you can reserve enough time for it. The duration also tells you something about what to expect in the conversation:

  • A 20-minute telephone interview is usually only about a few basic information about yourself, a few questions about your résumé, any gaps that need to be clarified.
  • If the interview lasts up to an hour, you should expect more in-depth questions and prepare yourself as if for a comprehensive interview. With questions about your personality, your plans and goals, your own queries.

How long does a telephone interview last?

Interviews usually last between 45 and 60 minutes. That is the standard. A telephone interview is usually shorter - up to 30 minutes is the rule.

If it is used for pre-selection, then open questions about the application documents will be clarified. These include, for example, gaps in the résumé that require explanation. Likewise phases of unemployment. Sometimes internships are also discussed or, if you have been abroad for a long time, that too. The decisive factor is always what you have done during this time, whether you have been active and whether you have expanded your knowledge and skills. All of this brings plus points.

Do you get a call during a telephone interview?

Usually the inviting employer calls the applicant. The question “Who is calling during the telephone interview?” Is already answered with the invitation.

Classically received interesting candidates an invitation to a telephone interview in response to your application. Or at least a couple of suggested dates that you should confirm by email or phone. A short two-line line is enough for the answer and confirmation:

Dear Ms. Mustermann

Thank you for inviting me to the telephone interview. I am happy to confirm the appointment on DD.MM.YYYY at 00 a.m. My number at which you can reach me that day is: 0123 - 467890. I look forward to our conversation.

With best regards

If there are good reasons why you cannot keep the proposed date, you can propose alternative dates on your part. Telephone numbers are exchanged in this way at the same time. In the event that a connection is lost, you could also call back.

How does the telephone interview work?

A telephone interview is similar to a face-to-face interview. The process can differ in a few points here and there. Basically, however, the telephone interview is based on this common thread:

  1. Greeting and self-presentation
    At the beginning of the telephone interview there is a short greeting. First, the "host" and the person you are speaking to introduce themselves. Then it's your turn. You briefly introduce yourself again by name and then give an overview of your career to date (the so-called "self-presentation"). Use the résumé as a guide and concentrate on those experiences and skills that are relevant to the position you are aiming for. Expect questions on individual points if the HR manager would like to know additional details.
  2. Expectations and requirements
    The telephone interview should show whether you are a good fit for the position and the company. That is why the person you are speaking to often asks about your ideas and expectations that you bring with you. Requirements can also be given to check your eligibility.
  3. Questions and information
    As in face-to-face interviews, questions are also a central aspect in telephone interviews. HR managers use the interview to find out more about you and to look behind the facade of the application documents. A comprehensive list of typical interview questions can be found HERE.
  4. Conditions and organizational matters
    The general conditions of the job and organizational issues are also clarified in the telephone interview. This includes, for example, the possible starting date or your salary expectations.
  5. Queries and farewell
    At the end of the conversation you have the opportunity to ask your own questions. You should ALWAYS use them. Questions are an opportunity to find out more about the job and employer. And they're a test of how well you've prepared. The smarter the questions, the more plus points you will collect. When they say goodbye, there is usually an indication of how to proceed. For example, when you can expect feedback. Then both sides hang up.

Telephone interview tips

The most important tip: You should take the telephone interview just as seriously as an interview where the HR manager sits across from you. With a professional attitude, you are more convincing and demonstrate a competent demeanor in the telephone interview. With the following rules and tips you can take the hurdle without any problems.

Telephone interview preparation

  • Practice conversation
    Telephone interviews are different. Use the preparation to practice talking to friends or your partner - on the phone. The more often you play through the situation, the more confident you will become when making an actual long-distance call.
  • collect informations
    Visit the company website in advance and collect as much information as possible about the employer: size, industry, products, plans, personal details. So you can ask better questions later.
  • Read job advertisement
    Before the telephone interview, you should take another look at the job advertisement. Remind yourself which qualifications are particularly important and which characteristics are expected. So you can consciously highlight them.
  • Know standard questions
    Some questions (for example about strengths and weaknesses) are part of every job interview. Likewise questions about curriculum vitae and career. To do this, prepare crisp answers. Also keep your application and résumé at hand.
  • Research conversation partners
    If you already know the name of the person you are talking to: Research Xing or LinkedIn to see if you can find out more about him or her. This results in good conversations or sympathetic commonalities.
  • Expect a surprise call
    Attention: stress test! Because HR professionals could call you unexpectedly, you should always contact you with your full name during the application phase, inform any roommates and check the answering machine announcement. Be sure to speak a professional text!
  • Check the phone
    It is best to use a landline phone, not a smartphone, for the interview. Or you can make sure that the battery is charged and the connection is stable. By ensuring a good connection (in both senses of the word), you underline your conscientiousness and care.
  • Dress officially
    The tip sounds bizarre. After all, it's a phone interview, not a video interview. And yet: It has been psychologically proven that clothing unconsciously radiates on our behavior. Dress like you are going for a physical interview. It may be that this increases stage fright in the short term. However, the adrenaline also makes you more alert. You hear more on the phone than you think!

In the telephone interview

  • Create atmosphere
    If the HR manager doesn't go into detail right away, do some small talk. Ask the interviewer how many applicants you are today or show understanding that it will certainly be very exhausting. This creates a personal level and relaxes the mood. Very important: Always smile - you can hear that.
  • Pay attention to the voice
    Make sure you speak clearly and confidently. Regulating breathing, volume and, above all, speed - most people speak too quickly when they are nervous. Whatever helps: get up and take a firm stand. Breathe deeply into your stomach; chest breathing alone is too shallow.
  • End sentences
    In the telephone interview, applicants talk about their heads and necks - out of stress. Keep your sentences short and sweet. Bring relevant information to the point. You are understandably nervous. But please don't let that throw you into a river of speech.
  • Show initiative
    On the other hand, telephone interviews are “conversations” - dialogues in which both sides participate. It shouldn't turn into an interrogation that consists of just recruiter questions and your answers. Show initiative and take part in the conversation. For example by asking questions.
  • Remember wording
    Some people fall into slang jargon or dialect on the phone - this is rather inappropriate during a job interview. Studies show such applicants appear less intelligent. You should also avoid “uh”, “uh” and other filler words.
  • Turn off distraction
    Actually, it goes without saying: Don't eat anything, don't smoke, don't type on your laptop or watch TV during the phone call. Don't forget to switch off your mobile phone (second).
  • Provide water
    Nervousness can make your throat dry. Always have a glass of still (!) Water ready. No soda - you don't want to have to burp from it all the time.
  • Expect english
    At international corporations, the interviewer sometimes switches to English. He will usually point this out to you beforehand. Nevertheless: stay calm, join in!
  • Accept breaks
    As with small talk, the following applies: Short breaks in the conversation are part of it. Use the seconds to collect your thoughts and consider what has been said. Just don't try to text the silence.
  • Let him finish
    Please never interrupt the interviewer and let him finish. This is not just a matter of courtesy. Anyone who acts too briskly here will soon end up in the off.
  • Say goodbye in person
    Make a note of the interviewer's name and use it to address him again and again. This is especially true when saying goodbye: "Mr / Mrs _____, thank you for the nice conversation!"

Telephone interview questions and answers

In the telephone interview, candidates are particularly afraid of questions from the recruiter. The fear: “What if I don't know the answer?” First of all: don't panic. If you can't think of an answer, you can ask for a short time to think about it. If the words are still missing, you can openly and charmingly explain that you are nervous and don't know the answer at the moment. Most of the questions in the telephone interview can be prepared. These include…

  • Questions about stations on the résumé
  • Questions about the applicant's motivation
  • Questions about qualifications for the job
  • Questions about dismissal from the former employer

In addition to these standard questions, there are already mentioned questions on the phone about the gaps in the résumé or clever trick questions. The way in which you as an applicant react to this reveals a lot to the interviewer about ...

  • Your goals
  • Your values
  • Your motivation
  • Your way of working

Honesty wins in a telephone interview

Basically: Never try to cover up anything. If you betray yourself or get caught up in contradictions, the trust is gone and the job chances are zero percent.

Better: Be honest, deal constructively with weaknesses and mistakes and explain what you have learned from failure, job loss or dropping out and what you can do better in the future. Breaks in the curriculum vitae are no longer a shame, on the contrary: it distinguishes real personalities! The more honestly and thoroughly you analyze such situations, the more convincing it will be.

Typical questions in the telephone interview

Below you will find typical questions that can come up in every telephone interview - including ideas for clever answers:

What did you dislike most about your previous job?

The open question clarifies in an unobtrusive way how the applicant deals with negative situations and frustrations. Blasphemy is not appropriate here. When answering, never talk badly about former colleagues or superiors, but turn the question around - and tell them what excites you more about your current job.

What are you interested in this job?

The question has the advantage that it is open. However, it forces the applicant to make a specific and differentiated statement in which the applicant reveals a lot about his interests, his career goals and his last employment. Point out which aspects are particularly important to you and what distinguishes this job and employer from others.

If you compare your past two or three positions, were you more of a leader or an executor?

Another open question that also requires confession. Even if most believe that they have to answer with “leader”, you cannot avoid specifying your qualities in this regard. So stay honest and always be specific. Examples from professional practice are an advantage here.

Tell me something about yourself that isn't on your résumé.

Yes, the question is provocative and subtle. But that is exactly what the application is about: advertise yourself, be better, stand out, be remembered. So why not cut the process short and get down to business? So always have an ace up your sleeve in the form of special qualifications or successes.

How are you doing right now?

Banal? Not at all! The power of the first impression is emphasized again and again. But what if someone cannot convincingly respond to such a simple offer on the charm offensive? The correct answer can therefore only be: “Great! I've been looking forward to getting to know you and your company better and hopefully being able to convince you all day. "

What do you know about our company?

The nice thing about the question is that it doesn't just tap into expertise or clichés. It also shows how intensively an applicant has dealt with the future job and how thoroughly he or she has researched. A more open variant of the question is: “Tell me something about our company.” With the answer, you can refer to what you particularly like about the company and what led you to decide to want to work there.

If you could design your perfect job yourself - what would it look like?

The question usually first triggers a smile - then beads of sweat on the forehead. She is a wolf in sheep's clothing. From the answer, HR managers can see how reflective a candidate is with his profession and future position, what plans he has and whether he is the driver of his career or, rather, lets himself be drifted. But do not overshoot the mark: Those who dream unrealistically create unrealistic expectations. Many employers would rather decline than disappoint you. So always stay close enough to the job description from the job advertisement.

What will your new colleagues learn from you?

The question is about the added value that you (hopefully) will add. The answer reveals at the same time how collaborative and team-oriented the candidate is. It is a good opportunity for you to emphasize your social skills and your commitment to the team.

If I asked two of your ex-colleagues about you: on which points would both agree?

A nifty question because it works out how empathic someone is and how well he or she can empathize with others and reflect on themselves. A skill that is becoming increasingly important in professional life. It is particularly authentic if you respond with a strength and a weakness. That you know both sides of yourself and can speak openly about them speaks for you.

If we hire you now, what will you do in the next 90 days?

This is where it gets down to the nitty-gritty: The question forces the applicant to imagine the new job and verbalize concrete actions. This provides good indications as to whether he or she has already dealt with the job and has formulated goals and actions. Therefore, think in advance about what you want to achieve in your new job and where you will be focusing on at the beginning.

What do you expect from a company that you invest your talent and time in?

This question also turns the usual application perspective on its head. Usually candidates think about what the company is looking for and try to sell these points as a service package. An interview (especially the probationary period) is also intended to find out whether both (!) Sides fit together. This is exactly where this question helps. In addition, HR managers can clarify how stable the subsequent relationship will be. The same applies here: Use everything you already know about the company and add your own specific ideas.

What is your biggest concern about this job?

Not only does it help you find out how well the candidate has prepared for the job interview - the question also shows what challenges they expect and how they think they will deal with them. At the same time, HR managers find out how open the applicant is. Beware of the obvious answer, “I'm worried I won't get the job.” This shows that you are insecure and do not find yourself convincing.

At the end of the job interview: How would you rate your current interest in this job on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 = maximum)?

Sure, most of them will answer spontaneously with 10 so as not to reduce their job opportunities. HR managers then like to ask what the reason for the maximum interest is. In all other cases, ask what has decreased interest. Before you answer, you should therefore come up with a reason to be able to parry the second question.

Telephone interview checklist

➠ Exclude sources of interference
➠ Provide documents
➠ Select a secure line
➠ Provide water
➠ Introduce yourself personally
➠ Speak clearly
➠ Smile a lot
➠ Make excuses
➠ Remain polite
➠ take notes
➠ Get answers to the point
➠ ask questions
➠ Say goodbye by name

Telephone interview failure

You should avoid these pitfalls and mistakes in the telephone interview:

  • Dead zone: Ideally, you will be calling via landline anyway. If that is not possible, at least make sure that your smartphone has full reception. At any time. Dead spots and multiple dropped calls annoy everyone.
  • Noise: Find a quiet room for the telephone interview. Background noise - speaking noises, children's noise, a busy street are a no-go. Nobody can concentrate when there is a noise - neither can you. Bonus tip for women: Large earrings can rattle on the phone - better to remove them.
  • Unpunctuality: If you have made an appointment for the telephone interview with the HR manager, you can either be reached on time or you will call on time. In personnel circles, lack of punctuality is an indication of a sloppy way of working.
  • Priority: The interview has top priority. If there is a "knock" on the other line or if you receive mail or messenger messages, you of course never answer. Anything else would be disrespectful and just show that you are not taking the interview seriously enough.
  • Interrupt: No matter how impatient you are and how talkative your interlocutor is: Of course, you never interrupt the interviewer and do not complete his sentences. Rather, let the recruiter finish and listen carefully. You may find out more than you expected.
  • Babble: Nervousness loosens the tongue. Beware: quite a few applicants have chatted about their job and career. Be sparing with private information and always get to the point. Short, crisp main sentences appear confident and convincing, especially in telephone interviews.

How do I know if the phone interview went well?

Of course, there is never a guarantee. Most HR managers are reluctant to look into their cards and their reactions remain neutral to nebulous. But there are a few clues and signs that the phone interview went well for you:

  • The conversation lasted longer than planned.
  • The questions went into great detail and indicated a great deal of interest.
  • You were on the same wavelength as the interviewer.
  • Your queries were well received.
  • She was invited to a personal interview.
  • You will receive positive feedback within a few days.

We wish you every success with your application!

[Photo credit:]

Even more interview tips
➠ Job interview: all the tips

Job interview process
➠ Interview preparation
➠ Application questions + answers
➠ Job interview clothes
➠ Introducing yourself
➠ self-presentation
➠ End the interview

Interview types
➠ Second interview
➠ Assessment Center
➠ Stress interview
➠ Job interview English
➠ Video interview
➠ Telephone interview

Typical questions
➠ These 100 questions can come
➠ 25 trick questions + answers
➠ Stress issues
➠ What are your weaknesses?
➠ What are your strengths?
➠ Why should we hire you?
➠ What was your last salary?
➠ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
➠ Why did you quit?
➠ Inadmissible questions
➠ Inquiries to HR managers

Tips & Tricks
➠ Practice interview
➠ Interview mistakes
➠ White lies in the job interview
➠ body language tips
➠ Overcome nervousness
➠ Where to put your hands?

➠ Confirm the interview
➠ Postpone the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Follow up after the conversation