TELEPHONE INTERVIEWS

Companies use phone interviews for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are: to save time; to save money (specifically, travel expenses); to pre-screen employees; and to narrow down the search for potential face-to-face interviews. 

Phone interviews usually come at the beginning of the recruitment process with face to face interviews in follow up rounds. 

HINTS & TIPS

PREPARATION 

Ideally use a landline - Mobile communications have the drawbacks of sometimes needing to shout, background noise, battery life problems and the chance of losing signal. If you live with other people warn them that you are expecting a call. The last thing you need is for a housemate to answer in a funny voice or claim that you’re in bed with a hangover.

Voicemail - If you have a voicemail, make sure that the message recorded on it is professional and lets the caller know that they have called the right person.

Called at inconvenient time - If a company call you and want to conduct an interview immediately and it is not a convenient time for you, you should ask if they can call back at a mutually agreed time. Give a good reason why you can’t do the interview at the moment and make sure that you still come across as willing and enthusiastic.

Gather all relevant material and keep them near the phone. This includes copies of application forms and CVs; pen and paper for notes; list of questions to ask the interviewer; list of your skills and examples to use; diary in case they want to arrange a face-to-face interview; and a glass of water in case your mouth dries up. Try to arrange the paper on a table or pin them to the wall so that you won’t be making paper shuffling noises during the phone interview. 

Practice - Have a friend or family member conduct a mock interview and record it sitting back to back, as this will replicate the phone interview and eliminate responding to facial expressions and body language. You will also be able to hear your ’ums’ and ’uhs’ and ’okays’ and you can practice reducing them.

Know the job - Make sure you find out as much as possible about the employer. Read the job description carefully and think about how you match the selection criteria.

Missed call - If you missed the call, phone back as soon as possible. Be prepared to be interviewed immediately when you return the call. If the interviewer has not got time to interview you there and then be prepared to offer some alternative times. If you get a voicemail, make sure you leave your name, contact number and the title of the job you have applied for. 


During the Interview 

      DO 

  • Dress as if you are going for an interview – if you feel professional, you are more likely to sound professional.
  • Remove all distractions  - The employer does not need to hear your housemates arguing over the remote control and you need to be able to concentrate. Therefore, place yourself in a private location free from intrusions and distractions. Have your phone in a quiet room away from radio, televisions, family and friends or anything else that may make a noise or take your attention away. Also, close blinds or curtains if you think you might be distracted by what’s going on outside.
  • Answer the phone professionally: ’Good morning, Joe Bloggs speaking’.
  • Have a smile on your face. Smiling makes a small alteration to the tone of your voice, which may be picked up by the interviewer.
  • Repeat questions asked if you are not sure that you have heard them correctly.
  • Try to avoid long silences. If you are taking some time to think out our answer let the interviewer know by saying to them ’I need to think about this one for a moment ...’. Also try to avoid little pause words such as ’um’, ’er’ and ’erm’. They are very obvious over the phone.
  • Be polite and avoid using colloquial terms e.g. ’How’s it goin?’, etc. Bear in mind that it is a formal conversation. Don’t get overly friendly or treat it as an informal chat.
  • Respond with good energy and sincerity. Remember, without face to face contact you don’t have facial expressions and body language to help convey enthusiasm – it is all in your voice. Be conscious of the pace, pitch and tone of your voice.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast or too softly
  • Highlight skills - Have a few quick stories to choose from that highlight your resourcefulness, problem solving ability, willingness to step up and get things done and/or some skill that they are looking for
  • Ask questions at the end but this is not the time for a discussion about salary, training and start dates. Instead ask questions which demonstrate a genuine interest in and knowledge of the company and position. Some suggested questions are
    • What characteristics does a successful person have at your company?
    • What are the most important factors sought in the ideal candidate at your company?
    • What is a traditional career path for this position?
    • How is an employee evaluated?
    • Could you describe a typical week within your organisation?
    • What are some of the reasons you believe people enjoy working here?
    • What are the next steps in the hiring process?
  • If you can, jot down notes during the interview or write down what you can remember about the questions and answers immediately afterwards. It will be a useful record to refer to when you go through to the next stage.
  •  Thank the interviewer and ask if it would be possible to meet in person.

      DON'T 

  • smoke, chew gum, eat or drink  
  • interrupt the interviewer
  • multitask (e.g. do not try reply to emails, check Facebook, make your lunch, wash-up etc.). Focus only on the person at the other end of the phone
  • slouch on the couch but sit up straight, as it will help you feel and sound more confident and alert. Some people find taking calls standing up immediately gives energy to their conversation.
  • go on and on, unless they prompt you to, but answer fully enough for them to get a good sense of who you are.


      Finally...

      ...it is most important that you be yourself. Most phone screeners are simply looking for a suitable person with positive energy who has the skills. In-person interviews are meant to more finely hone the search process and find an all-round good match. 

Regardless of the type of interview you are doing (video, telephone or face-to-face), the common principles for doing a good interview apply.