Project Management Recruitment Ideas – The Telephone Interview

In this Project Management Recruitment Ideas, I’m going to respond quickly to a friend on Twitter who posted a tweet “Plenty of websites on the subject but does anyone have some rock solid advice on how to deal with a telephone interview?” so here’s the Camel’s take specifically for project management telephone interviews.

The Project Management Telephone Interview

Preparation for a telephone interview should be no different to the preparation you would do for a normal face to face interview however there are some things which ride in your favour and like anything, some things which are a little trickier. See the previous Job Interviews post for more details

First up you need to find out the organisation’s approach is to a telephone interview – for some organisations it’s an informal chat for others its very formal. Try to find out before your telephone interview which of these two camps it is likely to fall into (if you’re using a recruitment agency, pump them for this information) When you have an idea which it is likely to be you can start your preparation. Now as I mentioned already, the preparation is the same regardless of the call being formal or informal, it’s just your delivery will differ, but more on that later.


Just like a face to face interview you should be researching the organisation, their position in the wider marketplace, competitors, recent news etc. Taking the job description you have and perform any research you can about people within that role already within the organisation (quick look around LinkedIn?).

Next, with the job description and your CV side by side; start pulling out the key relevant projects,  experiences, skills, competencies, tools etc that you can see on your CV. Make a note of all of these on a blank piece of paper – their requirement down one side, your relevant experience down the other.  This will be something you will look at during your call and because you have taken the time to pull out what you think makes you a good bet for the role, you can ensure you talk about these when the question is asked.

Finally, thinking ahead to the end of the call, you need to think about your closing questions. Don’t leave these to chance, you want your end of call to be professional and courteous.

The Call

There are loads of website that cover the most obvious of things about being ready to take the call (see below for the best ones) but it is worth just covering the ones which we have come across over the years;

  • Make sure you’re in a quiet place with your materials around you and a pen and paper ready
  • Try and do the call on a landline – you can never guarantee a fuzz free line with a mobile
  • Be ready to take the call – if something has come up and you can’t do point 1 & 2 above, reschedule the call but give plenty of notice
  • Get in the mood – deep breath and smile when you answer the call; prepare your opening line beforehand
  • Remember standing up makes any call easier so if you’re feeling nervous stand up, it really does help

The Informal Call

These telephone interviews generally feel a little more chatty, open, with less directed questions but a lot more opportunity to “tell me about yourself” in your own time. Now this is not an opportunity to prattle on for ten minutes without drawing breath, there is a knack to giving someone an overview of who you are and what you do within say, two minutes. Practice this beforehand; what is your two minute elevator pitch – based on the role you’re being interviewed for? Practicing this does really help with getting the interview off to a good start. The other thing to say about an informal telephone interview is finding the right balance. Take the interviewer’s style; if they are coming across as laid back, chatty and friendly, just keep a check your own approach; it’s too easy to stray into being too overfamiliar; too many laughs or giggles (which if you’re already nervous can sound really inappropriate on a call) and ulimately coming across as a bit of a joker. Try and mirror the interviewer’s style to a point but remember it is still an interview. Finally its worth remembering that organisations use an informal chat telephone interview to assess how you come across initially and whether it is worth them investing the time in bringing you in for that formal interview. If you can do any research on the types of personality styles that organisation generally goes for it may help you decide on how to approach that initial call.

The Formal Call

Sometimes these calls can feel just as intense as a face to face interview – but you do have an advantage – your preparation materials are available to prompt you and the interviewer is only relying on verbal clues not the visual (they can’t see any nerves!). At the beginning of the call the interviewer will likely take you through the format to set the scene of the call.  The other advantage is that it is only going to be one person doing the call with you – none of that panel interviewing just yet. The questions may come thick and fast but remember to keep your answers brief – if you’re talking for more than two minutes straight without an exchange from the interviewer it’s difficult to know whether you’re on the right lines; have answered the question fully; know whether you’ve just moved over to waffle; the interviewer is still listening! It’s OK to ask for clarification of a question if you don’t understand it initially and it’s OK to have a few seconds to collect your thoughts before answering a question but be careful with your “conversational fillers”; those ers, um, and other conversation tics you have (mine is saying “absolutely” when I agree with someone – sounds irritating after 30 minutes!).

>> Aimed at graduates at the University of Kent but applicable to everyone!

>> Comprehensive telephone interview PDF from University of London

>> Quint Careers

>> WikiJob

Image © Ollie Crafoord and used with permission.
Share: Linkedin Logo Facebook Logo Twitter Logo


  1. Excellent post Lindsay. Concise with some very good tips, particularly the cross-reference list. It’s really good to have that in front of you and standing up really does make a difference. In fact the ideas could also carry over into supplier / customer calls because after all an initial telephone meeting is an interview too.

    Have a great day, Deanne

  2. I have just successfully gone through a telephone interview and utilised almost all of the advice above.

    I was pacing around for the entire meeting and probably covered a couple of miles. Being on your feet definitely helps you focus. Shame I probably won’t be able to do that during the face to face one.

    Thanks again for the advice.

Leave your thoughts