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The Pros and Cons of Telephone Interviews

Why Use Telephone Interviews?

An increase in call centres and other telephone-based businesses has resulted in a larger percentage of companies using telephone interviews to review telephone manners and other skills of potential staff. However, telephone interviewing should never be a substitute for final face-to-face interviews – but they are a quick and easy method to identify the best candidates and discount unsuitable applicants.

Telephone interviews are often conducted by employers with regular and large staff intakes – particularly graduate employers such as big accounting firms and large banks. If you want to learn how to conduct a good telephone interview, check out our guide on that.

There are countless advantages to phone interviews; they are both quicker and more convenient for you and the interviewee rather than arranging a preliminary meeting face-to-face. As sales jobs commonly rely on and require as much personality/telephone skills and manner as qualifications achieved and experience. Nevertheless, phone interviews can be difficult because neither party can see one another, and as a result, the usual visual clues are absent.

Telephone interviews are especially common for sales related jobs, particularly – surprise, surprise telesales where verbal communication skills are paramount. However, they are used by other employers for preliminary screening of candidates for a wide variety of jobs.        

Telephone interviews can often be more beneficial for the employer than the applicant. Nonetheless, for a job applicant, it is better to have a telephone interview rather than no interview at all. As with all practice methods, telephone interviews have advantages and disadvantages. You may want to check out our tips on how to interview sales people as well!

Weighing Up the Pros and Cons

Telephone interviews are becoming more and more popular with employers, where they are often more advantageous for you as an employer than potential employees.

Employees who get offered a job only from interviewing via the telephone may ask for a face to face meeting before actually accepting the offer. Phone interviews are a great way to secure top sales talent, but come with their pros and cons - as we've kindly listed below.

The Advantages of Telephone Interviews

Cheap and Cheerful

    • A phone call is easier and much less costly than an in-person interview – especially if travel is involved for you and the employee, where candidates commonly expect the employer to pay for the travel costs incurred for them to attend the interview.

If an applicant appears to fill the requirement but lives a long distance away, you can reduce your spending by telephone interviewing before spending a large amount of travel costs. This can be particularly relevant if the applicant is currently based in another country.

Stepping Stone

    • A phone interview or screening session doesn't usually take the place of an in-person interview. It is merely a means of learning more about the candidate and allowing the candidate to learn more about the employer and position available before both parties commit to the time and expense of an in-person interview.

So Much In So Little Time

    • A number of different people can be reached in a relatively short period of time, enabling you to efficiently thin out applicants for further interviews.

Question Time

    • When screening candidates prior to an in-house interview, there are a number of common interview questions for phone interviews that can be used. Phone interviews are also often used by specialist recruitment agencies acting on behalf of employers as the first step in the recruitment process, "the preliminary telephone interviews".

Test The Unexpected

    • Telephone interviews not only test the potential verbal communication skills and telephone technique, but they test the potential employee's ability to cope with the unexpected (this refers to both the unexpected phone call itself and unexpected questions).

Long Distance "Relationships"

    • Rather than discarding promising jobs to applicants who live a long distance away – employers can now use telephone interviews as an acceptable and informative method of making first contact.

Slimming Down Your Options

  • Due to high levels of unemployment where employers are receiving vast amounts of job applications, telephone job interviews are becoming more the norm. It is often difficult to narrow the field down to a manageable and reasonable number through written applications alone. However, once this has happened, the first step can often be a telephone interview where you as an employer decide whether or not you choose to look further into an application. This can work as a satisfactory and effective thinning out process.

Disadvantages of Telephone Interviews

Lack Of Body Language

    • The inability to read body language is a major disadvantage of not having a face to face interview. If you can see the interviewee, you can ascertain whether or not they're interested in the role and the questions asked. It is very difficult to judge how attentive a candidate is during a telephone interview. You don't see them frown if you disagree with a point they may have made. You also can't see them smile or, in fact, view any facial or body expressions... It really is a case of flying blind.

Some of this can be mitigated now in 2022, with common video technology like Zoom replacing conventional telephone interviews. However, it's never the same as a face-to-face interview.

Hello? Is anybody there?

    • A significant disadvantage of telephone interviewing is that the respondent could unilaterally terminate the telephone interview without any warning or explanation by hanging up the phone (this could be for what seems like no apparent reason?).

Visual Prompts

    • It is very difficult to use visual prompts during telephone interviews. However, in some cases, these may be used, for example, by sending through the prompt materials prior to a pre-arranged interview time by couriers, email etc.

Is There Any Chemistry?

    • Without face to face communication and interaction, it is often hard to indicate if you and the candidate have chemistry that would turn into a binding work relationship.

Great Tips On Telephone Interviewing

    • Organise the candidate's information before you make the call - review CV's and references if needs be.
    • Schedule the phone interview at a time you can concentrate and talk without any interruptions.
    • Make a list of questions and points about the job. Include questions about the applicant's skill base, work history, future plans, personal situation, and their knowledge about your company. This list keeps the interview moving and further ensures that you receive all the information that will be required.
    • Call the applicant at the scheduled time – have questions, pen and paper ready. Ensure the applicant's CV is in front of you (with highlighted points that you wish to discuss further). This will allow you to clarify any information and refer to their previous experience.
    • Try to avoid long breaks in the conversation – they make you as an employer look less professional. Some silence will force a response from the applicant, but too much silence might appear to make you look organised.
    • Assess how serious the applicant is about the position – this will help you evaluate if it is worth scheduling a future interview (this is especially important if there is a long distance between the employer and potential employee).
    • If you feel the applicant is suitable for your company, arrange a time for a follow-up interview, don't lose an ideal candidate by making this mistake - here are some tips on how to make sure you don't lose the best candidates.
    • Walk around during the interview. The movement expresses energy in your voice, and you will be able to engage your employee more eminently via this method.
    • Avoid drinking, eating or chewing gum during the interview; this will make you sound muffled and unprofessional. However, an occasional sip of water will help if your mouth gets dry.

For great advice on the complete hiring process, head to our 'Top Tips when Hiring' article.


Employers like the Royal Bank of Scotland, Marks & Spencer, and The Royal Mail frequently use telephone interviews to trim down on potential candidates for jobs in the UK job market.

It is worth noting that video interviews through applications like Zoom permit many of the benefits of phone interviews, such as avoiding travel time/costs and conveying visual elements. We've drawn up a neat guide on video interviews you may want to eye over.

Telephone interviews can benefit your company by helping to cut down on your costs of interview venue, travel and subsistence allowance. You are then able to select potential candidates from CVs submitted, hear them speak over the phone, and further cut down on the size to a manageable number. Telephone interviews can help screen your potential candidates so you can then plan a one on one interview. It should be remembered that telephone interviews shouldn't be the only interviewing technique. Face to face interviews can help you determine further personal characteristics about the candidate, which will help you decide if they would fit into your work organisation and culture.

You may want to scan our 7 top tips for conducting brilliant interviews to brush up on that perfect interview style.

Navigate our advice on recruitment planning:

Date published: 20th November 2022

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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The most professional recruitment agency I've ever worked with. Robert Scott was extremely proactive and send me a detailed briefing before each interview, ensuring I was well prepared.

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