In a Phone Interview – Who Calls Who? [Clarifying the Process and Expectations]

phone interview who calls

Phone interviews have become an increasingly popular method of screening potential job candidates, particularly in our digitally driven world where remote work is becoming more common. Employers and recruiters use phone interviews to quickly assess whether a candidate is a good fit for the position before committing to a face-to-face interview. For many job seekers, the uncertainty of who initiates the call may be a cause for anxiety or confusion.

In general, the employer or recruiter is responsible for initiating the phone interview call. This ensures that the candidate is prepared for the interview and avoids any miscommunications when it comes to scheduling. However, it is essential for job seekers to confirm these details in advance, as there may be occasional instances where the candidate is asked to call the interviewer.

Navigating phone interviews can be a challenge, but by understanding the common practices, such as who calls whom, job seekers can approach these interviews with greater confidence and poise. Building a solid foundation in this area allows job applicants to focus on showcasing their skills and qualifications, increasing their chances of progressing to the next stage of the hiring process.

Phone Interview Basics

Purpose of Phone Interviews

Phone interviews serve as a crucial step in the hiring process, enabling employers to efficiently screen potential candidates before inviting them for in-person interviews. This helps both the company and job seekers save time and resources. During phone interviews, employers can assess a candidate’s communication skills, cultural fit, and basic qualifications for the job.

Roles: Hiring Manager, Recruiter, and Candidates

Hiring Manager

The hiring manager is the person responsible for filling a specific job opening within a company. They are often the direct supervisor for the position, and thus are well-versed in the job’s requirements and responsibilities. During a phone interview, the hiring manager evaluates the candidate’s competence and fit for the role, and has the authority to make decisions regarding the candidate’s progression through the hiring process.


The recruiter is responsible for sourcing, screening, and managing candidates throughout the hiring process. They work closely with the hiring manager to understand the job requirements. In a phone interview, the recruiter may ask preliminary questions to gauge the candidate’s qualifications and interest in the position. In some cases, the recruiter may be an external resource from a staffing agency, specialized in finding talent for a variety of industries and roles.


Candidates are the job seekers being interviewed for the open position. During a phone interview, it is their responsibility to effectively communicate their qualifications, experiences, and interest in the job. Phone interviews offer candidates the opportunity to learn more about the company and job, allowing them to determine if it aligns with their career goals and values.

EntityRole in Phone Interview
JobThe specific position the candidates are being interviewed for; discussed to ensure the candidate’s qualifications align
CompanyThe organization the candidates are applying to; discussed to gauge the candidate’s interest in and understanding of the organization’s values and goals
Phone InterviewThe method through which the initial screening takes place; allows employers to efficiently assess candidates before proceeding to in-person interviews
Hiring ProcessThe overall structure and steps taken to hire a new employee; the phone interview is typically one of the first steps in the process
RecruiterThe individual responsible for sourcing, screening, and managing candidates; may ask preliminary questions during the phone interview
Hiring ManagerThe person who is responsible for filling the job opening and making decisions regarding candidate progression; evaluates the candidate’s competence and fit for the role during the phone interview
CandidatesThe job seekers being interviewed; responsible for effectively communicating their qualifications, experiences, and interest in the job
EmployersThe organization conducting the interviews; assesses candidates’ qualifications and fit for the position through phone interviews

Preparing for a Phone Interview

Research the Company and Role

Before the phone interview, it’s essential to research the company and the role being applied for thoroughly. A deep understanding of the industry, company culture, and job requirements will help create an impression of being genuinely interested and committed to the position. Chances are the interviewer will ask questions about the organization or why the applicant is a good fit; being prepared for these queries will alleviate nerves and make the conversation smoother.

Start by studying the company’s website, LinkedIn profile, and social media platforms to gather information about their mission, values, products, and services. This will enable the applicant to speak confidently about the organization and highlight how their skills align with the job description.

Potential employee waiting for the phone interview to start

Phone Interview Etiquette

Practicing proper phone interview etiquette can significantly impact the interviewer’s impression of the applicant. Some key points to remember include:

  • Be punctual: Answer the call on time to show professionalism and respect for the interviewer’s time.
  • Use a clear, confident tone: Speak clearly and confidently to convey both enthusiasm and knowledge about the role and company.
  • Keep your resume and application within reach: Having these documents nearby can be helpful in the case of being asked specific questions about prior experiences or skills mentioned in the application.
  • Take notes: Using a notepad to jot down key points or questions during the conversation shows organization and preparedness.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

To ensure the best performance during a phone interview, it’s crucial to create a comfortable, quiet environment. Some steps to achieve this include:

  • Be in a private space: Find a room where distractions are minimal and background noise is negligible. Avoid public places, such as cafes or parks, as these can lead to a less professional atmosphere.
  • Make use of forms when necessary: If the interviewer asks about filling out certain forms or providing them with specific information, be prepared to agree and follow through.
  • Have a notepad, pen, and any necessary documents readily available: This will help keep the conversation flowing smoothly and prevent any interruptions caused by shuffling through papers or searching for a pen.

By thoroughly researching the company and role, practicing proper phone interview etiquette, and establishing a comfortable environment, applicants can confidently navigate the phone interview process and make a lasting impression.

Woman calls the recruiter for a phone interview

Questions and Topics

Typical Questions Asked

In phone interviews, common questions include inquiries about a candidate’s background, experience, and qualifications. These questions are designed to help interviewers get a sense of whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for the role. Some examples of common phone interview questions are:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What interests you about this position?
  • Can you explain this gap in your employment history?
  • How do you handle stress and pressure?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Customizing Questions to the Job

Phone interviews may also contain questions specific to the role and industry. These questions help assess if the candidate has the relevant experience and knowledge necessary to perform in the position. For example:

RoleSample Questions
Software DeveloperCan you explain your experience with programming languages like Java or Python?
Sales RepresentativeHow do you build and maintain a client portfolio?
Project ManagerCan you describe your experience with project management methodologies?

Formulating Responses

Candidates should be prepared to answer both common interview questions and ones tailored to their specific role. To respond effectively, it’s important for the candidate to:

  1. Research the company and role: Understand the company’s mission, values, and culture, as well as the requirements and responsibilities of the position.
  2. Review their background and experience: Identify relevant skills, accomplishments, and examples that demonstrate their qualifications.
  3. Practice answering common and role-specific questions: Develop concise, informative responses that highlight the candidate’s suitability for the position.
  4. Prepare a list of questions to ask: Candidates should also have questions for the interviewer, such as inquiries about company culture, expectations, and opportunities for growth. This demonstrates engagement and interest in the position.

By addressing these topics, candidates can better navigate phone interviews, leaving a positive impression on interviewers and potentially moving forward to an in-person interview.

Effective Communication

Maintaining Professionalism

During a phone interview, maintaining a professional demeanor is crucial to making a positive first impression. Ensure that you are in a quiet, private space to minimize interruptions and background noise. Speak clearly and confidently, and remember to address the interviewer and any relevant parties by their proper titles.

It’s important to have your cover letter, resume, and any other job search materials readily available for reference during the conversation. This will demonstrate your preparedness and commitment to the opportunity. Additionally, familiarize yourself with key accomplishments and leadership experiences to discuss during the interview.

Active Listening

Active listening is essential to engaging in a productive phone conversation. When recruiters or hiring managers ask questions, make sure to listen carefully and respond thoughtfully, without interrupting. If you need a moment to formulate an answer, acknowledge their question and take a brief pause before responding.

To enhance your active listening skills during a phone interview, consider creating a “cheat sheet” of common interview questions and rehearsed responses. This resource will help to ensure a smooth and well-prepared conversation.

Engaging in Small Talk

While phone interviews are primarily focused on professional topics, engaging in small talk can help establish a comfortable and friendly connection with the interviewer. Feel free to engage in light, neutral conversation before diving into more job-specific discussions. This will demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively and build rapport in a professional setting.

Keep in mind, however, that phone interview etiquette still requires polite and respectful behavior. Remember to confirm the interview time, and if necessary, reschedule in a timely manner. By adhering to these guidelines and focusing on effective communication, you will be well on your way to a successful phone interview.

Concluding the Phone Interview

Expressing Interest and Salary Expectations

As the phone interview comes to an end, the candidate should make sure to express their interest in the job. They should mention how their skills and strengths align with the job requirements and show their enthusiasm for joining the company. It’s also crucial for the candidate to ask the interviewer about the next steps in the hiring process.

During the conversation, the interviewer might bring up salary expectations. The candidate should be prepared to provide a salary range based on their research of the market value for the position and their career path. Remember to take into consideration factors like the company size, location, and industry.

Thanking the Interviewer

Before hanging up, the candidate should thank the interviewer for their time and for considering them for the position. It’s essential to leave a positive impression by showing gratitude and reinforcing their interest in the position. This simple act of showing appreciation can help the candidate stand out from other job applicants.

Following up

Within 24 to 48 hours after the phone interview, the candidate should send a follow-up email or message to the interviewer. The follow-up communication should include:

  • A brief expression of gratitude for the opportunity to interview
  • A mention of specific aspects of the conversation that were especially interesting
  • A reiteration of the candidate’s enthusiasm for the position and how their skills make them a good fit

By following these phone interview tips, candidates can more effectively convey their interest, fit, and skills, while demonstrating professionalism throughout the phone interview process.

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