Getting the 411 on How to Handle Phone Interviews

Dear Work Coach,

Very interesting posts indeed and it’s nice to see that you’re helping individuals that are experiencing the crazy interview process.

I have a couple questions..

I just had a phone interview that lasted about 50 minutes. For the most part the hiring manager did most of the talking. The only negative is that I feel it ended awkwardly. I came straight out and told him that it looked like the type of job that I was looking for and that I felt I could make a positive contribution, following a request to see when would be an appropriate time to set up a face-to-face interview so I could further demonstrate I was the best candidate. His response was that he was still interviewing candidates and would be having a meeting with his manager to further discuss the candidates. Think this is a bad sign? It just sounds so generic!

Secondly, would be interested to know how you feel you should change up your responses according to who is interviewing. I have had a few interviews where everything went well with the HR manager and Hiring Manager only to be rejected by the Director. The only thing that I can take from this is that you need to be more succinct the higher up you go and maybe focus more or the revenue side (solid numbers) when interviewing higher up in the chain. What are your thoughts?



Hi Derek!

Thanks for the kind words.

As or your phone interview…you’ve come to the right place. I used to do a lot of them and quite honestly, as nice as I am 😉 I would have handled it pretty much the same way, even if very interested in the person. (Well…maybe I’d have let you know you did well, but most phone interviewers don’t show their hands.) The mere fact that it lasted so long is a very good sign. If I don’t think there’s a chance, I politely end the call as soon as possible.

So while you can’t know for sure you’ll get the next interview, the way it was handled does not in any way show they aren’t interested. And your effort to try to get to the next step was a good sign of your determination, as long as you handle something like that politely and pull back immediately when, as in this case, they gave you a signal.

Honestly, most phone interviewers are not going to set up the next interview. Basically they’re screening, so they really do need to finish all of them and then discuss which candidates to bring in. So, from what you’ve told me, there’s a good chance you may get the call.

As for tailoring your answers depending on who is interviewing you, some people might advise you to do that, but truth is, it’s a dangerous game. Never assume that level means the person is any different in what they’re looking for. In fact, sometimes lower level employees are more stringent in what they’re looking for so that they send the right kind of people to the big cheese.

Is there a chance you act differently because of the level? It’s best to always be yourself – but of course the self that’s on your best behavior. 🙂

Talking about “solid numbers” and more concrete business-related things with a Director is a fine idea, but you also want to have some good stories about you – and how you turned things around or came up with a new way of doing something, etc. And those stories should not go on and on. You have to balance being bright and talented and amazing with being someone they’d actually want to work with on a daily basis.

I hope that helps a little. Good luck, Derek. Please let us know what happens!

Ronnie Ann

In case you’re curious, this post comes from Derek’s May 28, 2008 comment on:

How to Tell If a Job Interview Went Well


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. I love stopping by the Work Coach Cafe…it’s just a darn good feeling to see someone who obviously loves helping people, put years of experience to great use!

    BTW, that someone is you, WC.

  2. I thought about you again yesterday. What kept ya? 🙂

    Thanks for the kind words and support, MW. It mean a lot to me. Takes one to know one.

    Hugs to you and the furbabies. Be well!

    Ronnie Ann

  3. Hi coach ,
    I am emigrating from uk to usa and been applying for jobs.i finally had one email for telephone interview ,I found the interview very tough and thought I didnt perform too well.To my surprise I had another email from HR to say They wanted second interview week later,which was very exciting since I had no hope of getting through the first.The second interviiew I had was with Director which I think I did very well ,better than first,so now I am eagerly waiting to hear again ,do you think I get job or is it not work getting to edgy about ,as I have to make plans to relocate from original intention change schools for kids.

    Thanks great site by the way learned a lot

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