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Companies often prefer to conduct telephone (screening) interviews before inviting candidates to their offices for a face-to-face interview and preparing for telephone interviews is as important as preparing for any other type of interview.

If this telephone interview has been arranged through an agency/recruitment consultant you should know exactly when to call the hiring manager, or when they will call you. In other circumstances, you may have to be prepared to receive a call ‘out of the blue’.

From the telephone interview, your objectives should be:

  • To obtain enough information to decide if you would like to proceed with the interview process
  • To give just enough information to answer the hiring manager’s questions and persuade them that you are indeed worth interviewing face-to-face
  • To ‘close’ the interview effectively and agree a time, date and place for your face-to-face interview

Preparing for Telephone Interview
This video will offer some tips on good preparation techniques for telephone interviews

Have your CV at hand. In all probability the hiring manager will have a copy of it too, so you probably won’t be asked to describe your background in detail.

Research Company Prior to Phone Interview

Make sure you’re very familiar with the company to which you’ve applied. Do some basic research and take notes. Connect the company’s goals with your skills and be prepared to discuss.

It’s important to be ready to talk about these specifics at a moment’s notice. If you’re actively on the job search, have a copy of your resume within reach of your phone. You may want to tape it to the top of your work desk or a nearby wall.

Also, keep a few sheets of paper and a pen nearby to take notes during the interview. When a recruiter calls, it’s best to be ready.

Practice Responses for Your Phone Interview

Next, practice the interview. Carefully work your way through a list of possible phone interview questions and write down your answers in bullet-point form. Rehearse your answers until you feel you’re able to confidently and clearly respond to these questions.

With a simple computer program or tape recorder, record your voice as you practice. Listen to the recording to judge your clarity and speed; also, listen for any verbal pauses such as “uh” or “um.”

The main rules are:

  • Think about how you normally answer the phone at home. When you answer the phone, do so by announcing your name, in an enthusiastic style: ‘John Pickles, Good Morning!’ If this is not your natural style, change it!
  • Sound interesting/interested, energetic and enthusiastic
  • Be succinct (don’t waffle)
  • Ask open-ended questions (beginning with who, what, when, why, where, how: these all ask for information, and keep the ball in the other person’s court). Be prepared that they will do exactly the same!
  • Don’t use jargon
  • Don’t swear or use colloquialisms (local phrases: ‘I covered the whole of London on Shanks’ pony’)
  • Be polite: speak to Ms (not Miss or Mrs. – even if you know their marital status), or Mr. Jones. If you are invited to use their first name, then use it. Use their title if you know they are for example, a doctor.
  • Use the other person’s name regularly throughout the conversation (but not all the time). Also, use the company name a few times.

Closing the telephone interview

Part of the purpose of the telephone interview (from the hiring manager’s perspective) is to find out how keen you are, and (especially in the case of sales jobs) whether you have natural closing ability.

As soon as it seems appropriate during the conversation, ask for a date to meet for a face-to-face interview. Say something like ‘Well, this certainly sounds like just the job I’m looking for Mr. Brown. I’m sure I can contribute a lot to your company. I’d really like to visit you to show you what I can do for you. When can you meet me?’

You may have to be content with the response ‘I’ll call you’, but at least you can ask ‘When am I likely to hear from you?’. If the manager hedges, decide upon a reasonable time scale, and suggest ‘Well, I’m very keen to know if I’ve got a chance with you Mr. Brown, so if I haven’t heard from you by next Friday, would you mind if I call you then to find out?’ This approach is particularly important if you are applying to sales jobs, as you are expected to demonstrate your natural salesmanship. But even in the case of other jobs, most people will appreciate your keenness and enthusiasm. If they don’t, and you lose the job on account of being ‘too pushy’ (most unlikely) well, is it the sort of job you wanted anyway?

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