Preparing for a Telephone Interview

Telephone interviews

9 tips on acing a phone interview

On some occasions when you apply for a job, you may be asked to undertake a telephone interview. These are conducted by employers - or recruitment agencies - to find out more about your suitability for the advertised role. The hiring manager may be impressed by your CV and application but want to learn a little more about you before organising a face-to-face meeting.

If you know how to carry out a telephone interview, you stand a greater chance of making a positive impression. Then, when they meet you in person, you are already 'in credit' with the hiring manager and considered one of the top candidates. Employers may be interested to see how your personality comes across in a phone interview - after all, you might be working for them one day and be dealing with their customers.

Usually, telephone interviews focus on candidates' skills and general attributes, rather than focusing too much on the role specification. The more in-depth questions are likely to be saved for the formal interview, should you advance to this stage of the recruitment process. Initially, the interviewer will be looking to establish that you have the competences, personality and motivation to do the job.

With this in mind, here are some tips for acing a phone based interview:

  • Conduct research

As with any other interview, you should do your research on the employer and read the job description carefully. You must be able to explain how you fit the criteria and be able to provide examples of the value you offer. Write these down and keep them on a piece of paper next to you - the employer won't be able to see it. But if you do read from the page, you need to try and sound as natural as possible.

  • Practice in advance

If you haven't conducted a telephone interview before, you may find the experience more daunting than you think. It can be a strange feeling talking about yourself in a professional context to somebody you don't know and cannot see. Carrying out a mock interview over the phone with a friend or family member can help you become accustomed to the format, and ensure you know what to expect.

  • Find your voice

You need to speak clearly at the right volume, and this is another reasons to practise in advance of your telephone interview. Additionally, it makes sense to check the line quality is adequate and that there are no problems with volume. If the employer or recruiter cannot hear you, or vice-versa, it will be difficult to carry out an effective interview.

  • Remove distractions

If you live in a busy house, with plenty of coming and going, there's a risk someone may interrupt your telephone interview. You can't allow this to happen. It's important to find a quiet space in the house, such as an office or study, where you will not be disturbed. Only use speakerphone if you are sure the line quality is adequate and there is no danger of somebody else - whether your partner, a child or a friend – interrupting your interview.

  • Compose yourself

Before you dial in, or pick up the phone always take a minute or two to compose yourself and achieve a state of calm. Taking a few deep breaths before the start of the interview can help you stay composed. It is a good idea to have a glass of water on-hand in case your mouth gets dry during the interview.

  • Be welcoming

First impressions always count in interviews, whether they are conducted in-person or on the phone. As such, it's important to sound formal and professional, but also friendly and personable. Say good morning, state your name, and address the interviewer with their title and surname.

  • Choose the right tone

As with any interview, there is a balance to strike between being too formal and too laid back. You want to come across as being enthusiastic, but not desperate, and friendly, but not too over-familiar. If you start off formally, you can always relax a little depending on the general manner of the interviewer. Trust your instincts.

  • Take notes

You may wish to take notes during the telephone interview, as some of the information you receive could come in handy if and when you advance to the next stage of the recruitment process. If you are going to take notes, don't do this when you are speaking as it will impact on the quality of your answers.

  • Fully concentrate

You may think you can multi-task during a phone interview, as the other person cannot physically see you. But this is a bad idea - you need to give 100 per cent focus to the task in-hand. This means no eating, no texting and no doodling. If you start trying to do other things while your conversation is ongoing, you'll get distracted and your performance will suffer.

Home- based interviewing

Technology has changed the way some job interviews are conducted, particularly at an early stage of the recruitment process. Being able to interview candidates over the phone, or using Skype or other online conferencing tools, can simplify things for both employers and candidates, saving time and money. Should the initial interview go well, a traditional face-to-face meeting may follow.