Job Interview Tips – Having An Effective Phone Interview in English by Helena Cai

The following article will share with you some tips about how to conducting effective Phone Interviews in English with non-English speaking candidates. Before writing this article, I conducted a survey with Hiring Manager’s from China, Singapore, Japan, India, US and Australia to get their input.

Hope this article would be helpful to both native and non-native English speakers during your interview in a way or another.


1. Highlight your achievements. During the interview, avoid answering the interviewer’s question by reading any paragraph in your CV. The interviewer doesn’t expect you read what he/she can also find on your CV. What you need do is to share what your major achievements are and how you made them in a particular situation. Make sure you can explain any details of the project you did fluently in English.

2. Understand how to address your strengths and weaknesses from both technical and personality perspective. Though most experienced interviewers won’t simply ask what your strength or weakness is, it’s important that you can prepare how to address it in advance.

3. Be confident. I've met some applicants who like to answer the interviewer’s question starting with ' Sorry, my oral English is not good...’ Please bear in mind that a phone interview is the opportunity for you to demonstrate how your experiences and qualifications match with the company's needs. Never lower your interview score by yourself before the interviewer has even started to make any evaluation of you. If your oral English is not as good as how you expect it to be, just try your best to speak each sentence slowly and clearly. Never say anything irrelevant to the interview and please be confident!

4. Don't hesitate to raise questions. Have you ever been in a situation where you could not understand the interviewer's question in English? How did you respond ? More often than not, I have found that candidates choose to keep silent or just try to guess what the question was. Sometimes they get it wrong, sometimes they get it right. However, the better approach is to clarify with the interviewer about the question.

5. Never give the worst answer. Do you know what the worst answer given by the interviewee in an interview is? “…. I don’t know” The interview is about taking the opportunity to show what you know. Especially in a phone interview, the interviewer can’t see you in person so the only way for the interviewer to evaluate you is your CV and your answers to his/her questions. If you simply end up by saying “…I don’t know”, you are just giving up the opportunity.

6. Ensure a good interview environment. Before your English speaking phone interview, ensure the place you are taking the call is quiet and with strong cellphone signal. In most cases, we would suggest you use your land line telephone to have phone interview.


1. Start by building rapport. Building rapport with the candidate at the beginning of an interview plays an important role to a smooth and easy communication onwards. Not only can it create the pleasant atmosphere, but also can let the candidate become familiar with your voice and your English tongue. Each interviewer is different and has their own accent when speaking English.

2. Be careful using Speaker phone. It would be better to use a headset with microphone or handset to have a phone interview. However, if you must use speaker phone, please try to sit as close to the speaker as possible so as not to allow your voice to be unclear for the candidate’s benefit.

3. Rephrase your question in different ways. Sometimes due to the limited vocabulary, the candidate may not understand your question, so if you can rephrase the question another way, he/she may be better able to catch your meaning.

4. Try to avoid asking theoretical or hypothetical questions. This kind of question can involves terms that may not make sense to a non-English candidate. If you can provide illustrations to explain the question via data and sample results wherever possible, that would be much better.

5. Use tools to assist your phone interview. Interviewing completely in English is hard, especially for a technical English phone interview. It would be better to use some tools like Oracle web conference system to make the complex programming questions and answers more visible. If this kind of tool is not available, perhaps you could ask the interviewee to write down the answer first and then read it out for you. This approach will help the interviewee give you a more logical and clearer answer.

6. Invite a local interviewer or recruiter to be one of the panel interviewers. If your position doesn’t require an excellent command of the English language, then perhaps regard the English phone interview as the way to assess the candidate’s English communication skill, but, not as a measure of their technical capability. Hence, invite a local interviewer to be part of the interview process which will improve the effectiveness of the interview.

These are the job interview tips I’d like to share with you. Helena Cai is part of Oracle's China Recruitment Team, if you have any questions or more tips to share she can be reached @


Those are great tips for interviewers and interviewees. A few others that may be of help for the readers of this blog: Prepare - research the company, job title and what it entails, anticipate questions that may be asked. Dress appropriately - after researching the company, you will be able to get an idea of the culture, but ALWAYS dress in business attire. Exude positivity, confidence and personality. Answer questions honestly and realistically. Take a few moments to organize your thoughts before answering a question. This is normal, and may feel inconsiderate, but you were unaware of the question, and it shows that you can prepare and deliver a well-thought out plan.

Posted by Proper Candidates on July 02, 2009 at 08:28 PM CST #

Another important thing is that in the absence of any eye contact with your interviewer, you have to make up with assertiveness and exuding enthusiasm. Your interest in the job should be reflected in your tête-à-tête with the interviewer. But you have to avoid talking fast. The interviewer should be able to understand what you are saying.

Posted by Jobs philippines on July 06, 2009 at 08:08 PM CST #

I think you have some really great advice here. I also have a similar blog with additional advice such as not to give long winded answers that dance around the question. If you want you can check it out and link to it at anything we can do to help people to get jobs in these difficult times. Let me know what you think.

Posted by Paula Rutledge on July 23, 2009 at 06:57 PM CST #

great post, very helpful, some new points which we learn wow? Great dude. :) I like your post.

Posted by Laura Paris on December 29, 2009 at 07:38 AM CST #

I Really thanks to the tem of Oracle for providing me such a great platform and advice for telephonic interview... I am confident that by reading these tips one can definately breakthrough any interview...

Posted by Mangesh Patil on January 10, 2010 at 10:17 AM CST #

I am impressed by reading your article. this site is very nice and very helpful. thanks for sharing job interview tips. all points are very useful.

Posted by Laura Paris on January 12, 2010 at 02:37 PM CST #

This is some great advice and advice that will hopefully allow me to have better success in interviews. I am easily flustered and this hasn't helped me in the past.

Posted by DianneK on May 23, 2011 at 02:42 PM CST #

Thanks for these useful tips........but these tips are so simple and everyone follows these things. Give us some tips that how to impress the interviewers with lacking knowledge & information.......

Posted by Neha on May 23, 2011 at 03:52 PM CST #

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