How to survive a telephone interview

It is quite common for employers to want to use a telephone interview to check a candidate’s suitability before spending time and effort organising an onsite meeting. Although some recruitment companies will telephone candidates out of the blue it is incredibly rare for an employer to ring you without first emailing you to arrange a mutually appropriate time. So, with a little preparation and a huge amount of common sense you can give your self the best possible advantage in giving a good impression.

  • It’s a good idea to be aware of what the employer wants to learn from the call, above and beyond the obvious i.e. your qualifications and experience. Get some guidance from the recruitment agency on what the format and purpose is in advance of the call.
  • Telephone interviewers are trying to pick up on a whole host of other key attributes and soft skills. This may vary from job to job, depending on what the role entails, but this invariably means they are assessing your ability to interact with staff and even clients or customers.
  • This may sound obvious but it’s remarkable how many interviewee’s forget and become sloppy in their verbal presentation, particularly when an interview runs on for more than just ten minutes or so. Slow down, stay calm and stay focused. Ensure that the interviewer is speaking for half the time. A telephone interview is a conversation and don’t interrupt or over talk your interviewer.
  • Start by doing a little research. What kind of company is it? I am not just referring to their share capital and customer base but look for getting a feel for the company ethos. Are they playing ping-pong in their pajamas across the desk or are they more formal and slightly stuffy?
  • Even if you get the distinct impression the company or the interviewer is relaxed and informal don’t mistake this for a lack of interest in good manners and restraint. Your use of English should always be measured, no slang, don’t be over familiar and never assume it’s OK to call your interviewer ‘mate’ or swear/blaspheme – obvious? Not to everyone in my experience!

Now we come on to more stuff that may or may not be obvious to you. Not all of it was for me: –

  • Don’t be late and have a prior agreement on who is calling who.
  • Make sure you are not going to be disturbed during the interview.
  • Be somewhere quiet and make sure that no other phones, alarms or random interruptions will distract you and if the call is to a mobile check you have reception before the interview starts!
  • Know which job you have applied for! Embarrassing for you and irritating beyond belief to the interviewer if you have completely forgotten which job it is or that you even applied for it.
  • Print off the job description and have it in front of you.
  • Have a pen and paper to hand.
  •  Think about questions you may have for the interviewer in advance.
  • Lastly, make sure you’re not either desperate for a cup of tea or a wee!

Here are some links with lots of useful tips:

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