The Right Way To Deal with Telephone Interviews

With competition for jobs increasing, applicants need to get used to the likelihood of an initial telephone interview to kick start the selection process.

Here's a list of tips that could make the difference and get you through to the next stage.

What format will the interview take?

Depending on whether the interviewer is someone from human resources on a general fact-finding mission, a department head or hiring manager, or even your potential boss, you could just be asked fairly general questions or you could be asked to provide an oral case study about your previous work (have some written down for easy reference). You might be placed in specific scenarios and asked to provide ideas off the top of your head. Be aware which it will be and prepare accordingly.

What role are you going for?  

You might choose to present yourself slightly differently depending on the role you're being assessed for, and the skills you wish to demonstrate or experience you wish to highlight. What qualities do you think you'll be required to demonstrate?

Preparation is still vital, as is taking it seriously

Treat this exactly as you would a face to face interview. You still need to do your company research. You still need a copy of the job description. And even if you're being interviewed by a junior or admin person, treat the entire process with the same seriousness as you would if it were the chairman of the board on the other end of the phone.

Be sure to agree a set time for the call

Then you can be sure that you are not going to be interrupted and will be mentally ready. Be sure to have all your paperwork to hand (CV, cover letter, job description, company research etc) and have a pen and paper handy for note taking.

Who is interviewing you?

If you can then study any social profiles they may have (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter). If they have a blog or page on the company website be sure to read it, and look for any common ground you can find between you both.

Do a trial run

Record yourself, see how you sound, and how fast and clearly you speak. Remember that a large amount of communication is non-verbal, and that you cannot use eye contact or gestures to help make yourself understood. Practice your answers to questions you expect.

Stand up, dress up

Standing up will increase your level of alertness and concentration. This will come across in your manner and your responses to the questions you are asked. And whilst you might not want to wear a suit, do be dressed rather than in your PJs. You'll feel more professional.

Create an office-type environment and a clear communication experience

Make sure you are in a quiet room with no children or pets. You do not want to be distracted. If you can't be sure of good reception on a mobile then consider a landline or Skype. If you have call waiting on your phone disable it for the interview.

Have some intelligent and confident questions prepared

Good examples would include:

  • asking about current events in the industry, their perspective on company/competitor news that you have researched
  • saying you enjoy challenges and asking about the most challenging aspects of the job  
  • asking if they would like to know more about your references, qualifications or experience

Be enthusiastic and enjoy yourself

You can't be seen smiling or gesturing on the phone, but smiling while you talk and acting as if you are talking to a person in the room will come across in your voice. Don't turn off your body language just because there's no-one there to see it.  

End right and follow up

Thank the interviewer at the end of the call, then jot down notes on the conversation and what you learned about the company, the role and the interviewer. Then send your interviewer a 'thank you' email that includes reference to something you discussed during the call, re-states your interest in the role and your desire to proceed to the next stage and a face to face meeting.