How to Nail an Unexpected Phone Interview

4 minute read

We all love it when recruiters call to follow up on an application…but we also like to feel prepared for it. On the upside, that means they’ve read your cover letter/CV and like what they see. But when you answer the phone and realise that you’re speaking to a recruiter, you naturally go into a slight state of panic. Are they trying to judge whether you would be a good fit for their organisation? Yes, yes they are. And you know all too well that you have a few minutes to impress them.

The good news is that this is your opportunity to leave a lasting impression for all of the right reasons. Instead of thinking of an unexpected call as their chance to catch you off guard, consider it your chance to blow them away—minus the headache, stress and panic that we’re all too familiar with.

Not sure where to start? Here are our top tips for smashing your next (unexpected) phone interview.

How to Nail an Unexpected Phone Interview

1. Stay calm

Having that slight burst of heart-pounding panic is perfectly normal in these situations. They’ve called, you weren’t expecting it, but you still have to impress them. Just don’t let the nerves overwhelm you. Go through the same routine to calm your nerves before a face-to-face interview: take a deep breath, remember how capable you are and be welcoming. That way, you’re in a much better position to think clearly and answer their questions.

Remember that recruiters don’t expect perfection when they call candidates unexpectedly. They want to put a voice to the words they’ve read on your CV and staying calm will enable you to be a true reflection of yourself.



Stand up & walk around

As strange as this may sound, standing up and pacing around the room will help you to feel slightly more at ease. By giving yourself the space to move and use the same gestures that you would in a face-to-face interview, you become much more relaxed. Which in turn allows you to express yourself confidently.

While sitting down isn’t actually harmful, it puts you in an informal relaxed state (which is not what you need when speaking to a recruiter). So hold off on going to the sofa until the call is done.

How to Nail an Unexpected Phone Interview

Grab your CV

This is one of the very reasons that the recruiter has called you. So chances are, they will have a copy of your CV with them. If you can, pull up a copy of your CV so that you can be prepared for any questions about your work history. This should calm your nerves as everything that they know about you is currently in your hands, making you more prepared and lowering the chances of you being caught off guard. Now you can relax and let the conversation flow naturally.


Don't miss another post, sign up to our weekly newsletter

Thank you for subscribing, you're on the list for the next edition!

Listen carefully and make notes

At this stage, the recruiter may offer you a greater insight into the role than the job description did. Take this opportunity to note down anything that is key to you (possibility of relocation, flexibility, etc) and refer back to this list at the end of the call if you have any further questions.

This additional information will also be great for you to refer back to, after the call, when you run over the job specification.

And remember, telephone interviews are about much more than showing off your personality and social skills. Listen with the intention of getting as much information from the recruiter as you are giving to them.

How to Nail an Unexpected Phone Interview

Take a pause

Silence is not something that you should be afraid of. As we mentioned before, recruiters don’t expect perfection over the phone. If you happen to be asked a question that requires you to collect your thoughts, say so. Making it clear that you’re taking a moment to think before you speak tells the recruiter that you want to leave the right impression by answering them as clearly as possible.

If anything, this approach will be refreshing as many people rush into answering questions, ending up tongue-tied and losing track of their thoughts. Aim to be clear and concise, pausing when you need to in order to articulate the best response.



Remember to enunciate

A recruiters opinion of you is based on much more than your CV and cover letter. What you say and how you say it is also extremely important and plays a huge part. Speaking too fast, too loudly (or quietly) and failing to pronounce your words will not help you to be remembered.

Take your time. Speak clearly, project your voice and enunciate each word so that you are truly heard.

How to Nail an Unexpected Phone Interview

And lastly…don’t forget to smile

Your interviewer may not be able to see you, but your tone of voice is telling them everything they need to know. Smiling can help you feel positive and upbeat. Even better, is that this attitude will translate into your speech so that, when you’re answering any questions, you sound optimistic. After all, if there’s one thing that any recruiter wants to know, is that they’re speaking to someone who can add help create and add to a positive working environment.

Last but not least, you want to emphasise your interest by asking any questions that you have about the role. Interviews are a two-way street and you have the right to clarify any thoughts or reservations you may have had. And before you know it, the telephone interview that you had dreaded is over, now you can sit back, relax and wait for the next stage!

Jade Phillips

Marketing Manager at CharityJob. A true bookworm and social media geek, you'll find me living in pockets of online communities. Unattended snacks might go missing if left around me...

You might also like...

Don't miss another post, sign up to our weekly newsletter

Thank you for subscribing, you're on the list for the next edition!