More frequently these days employers use telephone interviews to identify those candidates which are suitable for employment, as a screening tool to narrow down the pool of applicants for interviews in-person.
If you are currently searching for a job, then you should be prepared to have a phone interview at some point during your application process. It is becoming more and more common for recruiters to unexpectedly call to see if you have a few minutes to answer some questions and discuss the vacancy further.
When you receive a call from a company you need to make sure that you are in the right frame of mind so that you can fully focus on the conversation at hand, and not think about your family or career. If you are not able to fully focus on the conversation, it is reasonable to agree an alternative time and date for a return call. Remember if it is left in your hands to return the call, make sure you take the name down, and above all don’t forget to ring back!
When you speak to the interviewer, use their name in the conversation although we recommend that you use their title (Mr or Mrs and their surname.) Only use a first name if they ask you to. Here’s how else to make a good impression.
We have grouped telephone interviews into three main types:
- Candidate initiated – the candidate makes the telephone call, perhaps to check their application has been received or to query something, and this leads to questions regarding the candidate’s background. From this point the telephone conversation can be considered an interview.
- Unarranged telephone interview – the employer contacts the candidate to discuss certain aspects of their application and may ask various questions regarding their background. As the prospective employee is usually unprepared for the call this is usually in the form of an informal chat.
- Prearranged telephone interview – This is usually in the form of a formal question / answer interview although the employer may have asked you to prepare certain information regarding your background.
Telephone interview tips
Expect a call. It is better to be prepared for an unarranged call than to be caught off guard:
- Keep all of your application and employer documents well organised and within reach of your phone, especially if you’re applying for a number of different jobs.
- Put your current CV in easy reach or perhaps taped to a wall so you can easily refer to it during any conversation (you can also use this method to scribble notes on reminding you to update it etc.)
- Have pen and paper handy to take notes during the conversation.
Additional tips for prearranged phone interviews:
- Ensure you are in a place where you will not be distracted. Turn off the TV, stereo etc.
- Turn off call waiting on your phone.
- Warm up your voice while you’re waiting (especially if it’s an early morning call).
- Have a glass of water close by if necessary.
- If possible, try to create a strong finish to your phone interview with a thoughtful questions.
- Above all, answer the telephone. Avoiding the call will not be viewed favourably – if circumstances have changed and it is no longer convenient then explain and arrange another convenient time.
Below are some general tips for telephone conversations which will assist with your phone interview.
- Be a good listener. Be respectful and don’t cut in when the interviewer is talking until you are confident they have finished their train of thought or question. The more information you can gain, the better you can respond.
- Smile. People can hear whether you are smiling or not over the telephone.
- Prepare yourself thoroughly. Make sure you know which job application you are interviewing for and remind yourself of the job description.
- Speak clearly and slowly.
- Take your time. It is OK to have a moment to consider your response before answering.
Bear in mind throughout the telephone interview that the end goal is to arrange a face-to-face interview. Make sure that the contact details listed on your CV are accurate and clear so that the employer can easily get hold of you, and ensure there are ways to leave messages on any telephone number.
Some things to avoid during your telephone interview:
- Do not smoke, chew gum, eat or drink.
- Do not interrupt the interview.
- Do not cough, if it can’t be avoided then say ‘excuse me’.
- Do not think that you have to fill in silences. If there is a silence after you have said something you don’t have to fill in the empty time.
Don’t forget there is a major advantage to having a telephone interview over a face-to-face interview, and that is the interviewer can’t see you! You can have all your CV, material on the employer and any other relevant information available to review while you’re on the phone. It’s always a great idea to have a ‘cheat sheet’ of success stories which you can introduce into the conversation. Orientate the conversation around what you can offer to the company and your successes generally. Avoid negative points where possible as you’ll only get one opportunity to make a great first impression, and the aim of this telephone interview process is to wittle down the number of candidates for face-to-face interviews.
Remember that the employer has called you because they consider you could be a prospective employee so you have a right to be positive and self-confident throughout the telephone interview.
Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job by asking questions and listening to what the interviewer has to say.
Finish on a positive note, let the employer know you’re interested in the job, and ask about the next steps in the interview process. If you don’t get a positive response then it may be worth asking the recruiter if they have any specific areas of concern.