Telephone Interview Tips - Phone Interviews Made Easy
Telephone interviews are standard procedure for larger employers. Internet job boards make it easier for candidates to find and apply for jobs. To filter through hundreds or thousands of applicants for an advertised position, HR protocol often includes telephone interviews for both pre-interview screening and post-interview follow up.
If you are an out-of-town candidate, a phone interview may replace a standard in-person interview. In that case, your telephone interview preparation will be very similar to standard job interview preparation. For local candidates, phone interviews are conducted in addition to regular face-to-face interviews. The following tips for phone interviews will help you prepare and give yourself the best chance of success.
Before the Call
In most cases telephone interviews are scheduled ahead of time. Agree on a time when you know you’ll be uninterrupted by friends, children or pets. Consider your current time commitments and allow yourself enough of time to prepare for the phone interview.
Note: if you do receive an unexpected call from a recruiter, it is acceptable for you to request scheduling the call to a later date.
Create a quiet space with easy access to relevant paperwork. Whether it’s your bedroom floor, kitchen bench or office desk, be sure the area is tidy and your papers are well organised. As a minimum, you’ll need a copy of your resume, a copy of the job advertisement and notes you have made in preparation for telephone interview questions and answers. You’ll also need a pen and paper for taking notes. It’s a good idea to sound-check your phone with a friend. Turn off your answering machine or call waiting service to avoid embarrassing interruptions. For clearer communication, use a land line rather than VOIP or mobile phone. Turn off the ring tone on any other phone or mobile device in proximity to your interview space.
Know the Reason for the Call
A telephone interview has a different purpose than an in-person job interview (unless you’re an out-of-town candidate conducting a full interview over the phone). From the recruiter’s point of view, the purpose of a phone interview is to screen your application by:
- Examining your experience, qualifications and suitability for the job
- Identifying red flags (such as poor English or lack of communication skills)
- Confirming you still want the job
From your point of view, the goal of a pre-interview screening call is to progress through the application process, successfully scheduling an in-person interview.
Making (or Answering) the Call
For scheduled telephone interviews, you should be ready and waiting for your call. Depending on prior arrangement, either you or your recruiter will be making the call. If you make the call, be sure to call on time. Always introduce yourself and state the reason for your call. For example: “Hello Mr Smith. My name is Jim Carter. I have a phone interview scheduled with you now regarding the new position in your department.” If you are receiving the call, you would simply say: “Hello, this is Jim Carter.” Be sure to state your name clearly.
During the Call
Give Well Rehearsed Answers
During your telephone interview, call upon well rehearsed examples of your past work achievements and how they relate to the job on offer. Rehearse by first printing out a copy of the job advertisement. Take your existing resume and cover letter and dissect the content into smaller notes. For each concise note, write just one job requirement (as specified by the job ad) and a corresponding work-related achievement. Take time to rehearse talking about your proudest work achievements and how they relate to the advertised position. Keep the notes on hand during the phone interview for easy reference.
Unlike in-person interviews, where 90% of communication is non-verbal, you can’t rely on a friendly face to make the interviewer like you. Follow these tips to use your voice to its best advantage:
- Stand up. Standing up allows you to breathe comfortably and speak clearly. You will also sound more confident and alert. Take care not to walk around too much; you don’t want to sound breathless. If you do decide to stand up, consider taping your résumé and paperwork to the wall at eye-level for easy reference.
- Smile. Smiling when you talk lifts your tone of voice. You’ll sound more enthusiastic, interesting and positive. It is known that the physical act of smiling releases endorphins into the bloodstream. These endorphins are chemicals that make you feel happy and relaxed. Even though your smile won’t be seen, smiling during your phone interview will make you feel better, sound better and leave a great impression.
- Dress Up. It may seem unnecessary to wear a suit and tie for a telephone interview, but many seasoned recruitment experts recommend dressing up. Imagine taking a phone interview in your boxer shorts versus a suit and tie. You’ll hold a more confident, professional conversation when dressed appropriately.
Both you and your interviewer will be taking notes during a telephone interview. A silent pause after you’ve answered a question is normal. Your interviewer is either writing notes about your answer, or reading their next question. Don’t be tempted to interrupt or speak out of turn. There’s no need to become anxious. Stay calm and wait patiently for the interviewer to speak.
Expect Uncomfortable Questions
Given that a phone interview is designed to filter out sub-standard applicants, be prepared to address weaknesses in your résumé and cover letter. Often seen as red flags for recruiters, you may be asked to explain:
- Employment Gaps - Long periods of unemployment
- Job Hopping - Unusually high number of jobs in a short time frame
- Getting ‘Fired’ - Alarmingly short period of employment with a previous employer
Rehearse a short and simple explanation for any apparent red flags you may be queried about.
Ending the Call
Always allow the interviewer to signal when the call is over. You will usually be given a chance to ask any final questions. Take the opportunity to ask “Did I answer your questions completely?” This shows you’re not in a hurry to escape the interview, giving both you and the interviewer a chance to clarify uncertain areas. You can also ask the interviewer how soon you can expect a response and when face-to-face interviews are expected to commence. Hang up only after the interviewer has.
After the Call
As soon as you end the call, write a thank you note. A good example is:
Dear Mr Jones, I appreciate the time you took to speak with me today. Our telephone discussion confirmed I am very interested in this position and would appreciate an in-person interview to learn more. It was good speaking with you. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Sincerely, Sue Smith
Send the thank you note as soon as possible; the same day is best. (Note: it is acceptable to send your thank you note by email, but it will make a more memorable impression if it arrives by post.)
The success of your phone interview relies heavily on the quality of your preparation. Following these telephone interview tips is a surefire way to impress recruiters. If you’ve conducted a perfect phone interview and still don’t progress to the next step, it’s most likely because you weren’t suitable for the job, not because you interviewed poorly. Remember, if you don’t hear a response by the promised date, make a courtesy phone call to follow up.
Visit The Job interview section for more articles related to your job preparation.