How To Succeed At Telephone Interviews

How To Succeed At Telephone Interviews

Like face-to-face interviews, recruiters and employers use telephone interviews as a way of screening the best candidates for a job, and it can help them to decide who to put through to the next stage of the recruitment process.  Telephone interviews are useful to employers in a number of ways, including:


  • When there are large volumes of responses and not everyone can be met individually
  • When the position and candidates are long distances apart (eg – for international or regional roles)
  • Where large elements of the role require telephone interaction with customers or staff (eg customer services, telesales)


There are three key stages to think about when you have been selected for a telephone interview, and the format is similar to face-to-face interviews.  Here are a number of tips which I recommend to people myself, and could help you too :


1.         Preparation


  • Make sure you have done your research on the company before the interview, and found out background information about the interviewer if possible (read my post here about how to conduct Company Research)
  • Know in advance what dates and times you could be available for a face-to-face interview, in case you are invited back at the end of the call
  • Have a pen / pencil with you, so that you can take notes during the call.  If you think of topics to put into the conversation later in the call, you can write them down immediately rather than make a mental note to remember
  • If you will be receiving the call on a mobile phone, make sure you battery is fully charged beforehand.  Ideally, try to take the interview on a land-line as it is going to be clearer and easier for the interviewer to hear you
  • Ensure you have a copy of your CV ready, so you can use it to help answer questions  during the call.
  • Ensure you have a copy of the job description ready, so you can review the job duties throughout the call (read my post here about how JDs are critical to interview success).
  • If the interview has been arranged via a recruitment agency, call the recruiter to get an idea of what format the interview will take.  For example, are they going to ask obvious interview questions such as strengths / weaknesses, achievements, where do you see yourself in five years ?; or more competency based questions
  • If possible, practice a telephone interview beforehand with a friend.  If you have time, get them to call you and conduct an interview, giving you feedback afterwards


2.         During the Call


  • Find an area to take the call where it is quiet and free of distractions.  If the call is scheduled for when you are at work, try and take it in your car over a break or lunchtime so it is not too suspicious or failing that, book a meeting room.  You need to be somewhere where you can give total concentration to the caller / interviewer
  • Remember to speak slowly and clearly so the interviewer can understand you.  Ideally, speak as if they were actually sitting in front of you, and talk enthusiastically (as you would do in a face-to-face interview)
  • It is critical that you listen to the question being asked and don’t waffle or go off on a tangent.  Having read the JD in its entirety, you should have some idea of what questions will be asked.  Therefore, try to give succinct answers with some detail and examples.
  • An obvious point to make, but I know people who have done this and they went no further in the interview process !  Don’t eat or use chewing gum when you are on the call.  Even though you are not in front of the person, it is obvious what sound you are making over the phone to the interviewer.
  • Do not use company jargon or acronyms, as they are unlikely to understand you and it wont help the interview.  As above, keep all your responses easy to understand and succinct
  • Remember to be polite at all times, and only use their first name if you are invited to do so


3.         Concluding the interview


  • Try to finish the interview with a quick summary of why you believe you are the best person for the job
  • Use the key attributes / essential requirements in the JD to help you summarise the relevant skills you have, and tell them how keen you are to pursue the role further.
  • If you are invited for a 2nd interview whilst on the call, thank the interviewer for the opportunity and give them some options for when you can meet in person
  • If the interview has been arranged via a recruitment agency, call the recruiter straight away to give them your feedback and let them know if you are keen to progress or not.


I hope these points will help you in relation to any telephone interview you have in the future.   If you have other ideas or suggestions that could help people from your own experience, do let me know and I will add them to the post.


Best Wishes

Leslie has over 15 years Recruitment experience helping blue-chip corporates to SME businesses recruit for their Finance teams.  As one of the founding Directors of McGinnis Loy, a Specialist HR and Finance Recruiter across the Thames Valley and London, he is still actively recruiting in the marketplace today.  Follow his helpful tweets on Twitter: @McGinnisLoy
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