The nerves of a telephone interview.

I still get nervous when I’m completing a telephone interview. Not the whole stomach-turning, can’t-think, muddle-my-words nervous. It’s more that I don’t look forward to it. It’s a niggly feeling, but then when it’s started and I’m chatting, I feel relaxed and more times than not, everything is fine.

Telephone interviews are so much better than email interviews, and even though – because of whatever reason – email interviews might be more convenient sometimes, they shouldn’t be ruled out. You can always find out so much more from people when you have a conversation, generating interesting snippets they might have said on the back of a conversation that you wouldn’t have got if it was on paper. In an email, you have to give the questions you want answered, but on the phone it’s a lot more flexible. You might have your set questions you want to ask, but because of something they have said, your questions veer off into a more interesting direction.


I guess this is less of an advice post, and more of an experience post. With quite a few telephone interviews lined up from now on, I’m hoping to share tips that I’ve learnt.

The worries

  • Won’t get the content I need
  • Forget to ask a question
  • I get one-word answers
  • They aren’t interested in the interview/feature
  • Can’t hear them
  • How do I record it?
  • Is my shorthand good enough or should I put them on loudspeaker and record?
  • Do I type their answers up as I go along?
  • What if their answers give me no story

Getting around them

Now this is by no means a bullet-pointed list of tips, but it’s where I started on the first telephone interview that I seemed to have done in a while.

  • A list of questions – and no, I didn’t follow them that well and I jumped around a bit in the themes I was asking, but I guess the art is in writing the feature.
  • Important things that I just couldn’t forget to ask IN CAPITALS ON A PIECE OF PAPER NEXT TO ME
  • A means for writing somewhere else seeing as my laptop likes to crash about once every half an hour (luckily it didn’t)
  • All the details I was given about the interview/needed to know – nothing worse than saying the wrong name
  • An eye on the time – knowing how long the feature was going to be, the longer I stayed on the phone, the harder it was going to be to cut the feature down
  • A recording device if my own notes seemed to fail

The end result wasn’t too bad at all. Although there were some topics I asked the interviewee about that I could tell he desperately was not interested about and didn’t want to expand his answers, he was very chatty with everything else. Let’s hope the feature reflects that!



One thought on “The nerves of a telephone interview.

  1. I feel very much the same way when I’ve interviewed people over the phone. I get nervous about the calling the person but once I’m on the phone with them the conversation feels so natural

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