Telephone Interview Success – A Short But Awesome Guide

You’ve submitted your CV. The next step is an interview. An email comes through.

“Can you do a telephone call/interview with me tomorrow?”

This is common place with a lot of companies as they streamline the hiring process.

Telephone interviews are easier to arrange than face to face interviews and are very efficient at what they do.

They’re fantastic screening tools. They narrow down the number of candidates down to those they truly want.

But, so many people focus only on the face to face interviews they forget this important first step.

33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone.

This is you first impression. A first impression makes a world of difference, or in this case helps you get a job.

Preparation is Key

There are two kinds of telephone interviews; the impromptu and the scheduled.

The scheduled is more like a formal interview. You know the date, time and can plan everything accordingly. This is easy to prepare for.

The impromptu interview requires some mental preparation. As soon as you submit your CV, you should be prepared to receive a call. It can catch you off guard so as soon as you hit submit, prepare.

Because, those who treat the impromptu call as an informal chat don’t get called back.

So when the recruiter or hiring manager calls and asks if “now is a good time?” Be honest. If it isn’t a good time, say so and organise a time that suits both of you. They understand that “there and then” won’t always be the perfect time.

Now you have time to prepare.

Research & Practice

Remember, the telephone interview is used to sort the best applicants from everyone else.

This means they have seen your CV already and decided to investigate. As a result, these interviews have a lot of questions centred around your CV, experience and skills.

Have a copy of your CV ready and in front of you. You’re going to want to keep to what you have said in your CV. Elaborate on the points you feel would really highlight the best experience and skills you can offer them.

Print off a copy of the job description so that you can tailor your answers to  the questions the recruiter will have in their mind.

Also have a pen and paper ready with your notes about the role and the company.

You should have plenty of research available from when you wrote your CV (you did do your research right?).

These notes will help you in form the answers to your questions so review them and get comfortable with them. Use this as the base to practice answering the common interview questions.

Let’s start with the most common interview question: “Tell me about yourself.”

This is your chance to make sure your elevator pitch is, well, pitch perfect.

This is your chance to really interweave what the job description is looking for in the ideal candidate and who you are.

A good formula was described by Kirsty Bonner as:

WHAT I am + WHO I am = WHY I am applying for this role.

Adding together the What with the Who should be used to explain Why you are a good candidate for the role.

This then becomes your elevator pitch for your interview, allowing for a succinct answer that gets to the heart of why you are the perfect fit for the role.

Emphasise the strengths they are looking for and give details of the skills that they’re after. Remember this is an elevator pitch so keep it short, snappy and succinct.

Location, Location, Location

Whilst you are preparing your research ready for the call, make sure you have worked out where you’re going to be in and the time it’s going to take.

Most telephone interviews last between 30 minutes to an hour. So make sure you are available for that length of time, undisturbed and unbothered by distractions.

Also make sure the place you are calling from is a. quiet and b. has great mobile signal (if calling from a mobile).

Check this out beforehand! Call a friend from that location to check the quality and clarity of your voice. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so don’t leave anything to chance.

It’s a state of mind

With all this preparation most people feel confident when interview rolls around. However, nerves and anxiety can set in so you need to make sure your head is in the right place to help you keep your cool.

First up an obvious tip; Be positive and smile. Visualise and practice the interview beforehand. This will keep you in a positive state of mind as you have done all of this before. Smiling activates the part of the brain that work toward fighting off stress, so smile while you talk.

Some nice deep breaths will also keep you calm and relaxed. By staying calm you can answer questions more effectively and clearly, impressing your potential new boss.

Another trick is to dress the part. It may sound odd but being in smart clothes will help put your mind in “work” or “interview” mode. The hiring manager can’t physically see you, but it works so suit up!

Finally, they say practice makes perfect. So get a friend and practice! Go through the common interview questions, refine and improve your answers to be better each time. Use this opportunity to perfect your interview technique that will make you irresistible to recruiters and hiring managers.

The Call Itself

Some people fall at the first hurdle.

Answer the phone in a professional manner. You will be surprised how many people forget this simple rule. Your first impression will make the biggest impact on if you get through to the next stage.

Keep the small talk brief, but friendly. The point of this is to make sure you present yourself and personable and likeable without detracting from the task at hand i.e. Your interview.

Here’s a vital tip: listen! The best way to listen carefully is to not interrupt the recruiter. It may be tempting to answer questions quickly and interject, but I promise that it is so much better to listen carefully to every word they say.

By not being physically there, there is no way to pick up on visual cues from body language, so we have to get everything across with our words and tone of voice. This is not the time to ramble or talk at 100 miles an hour. Instead speak clearly and slowly, like you were giving a TED talk.

Here’s a simple formula for staying calm and giving off the best impression you can. Listen, breathe, think, answer. The benefits of this are two fold.

By pausing for a moment to breathe it gives you room to think and formulate a thorough response that accurately and succinctly answers the question.

It also keeps you calm and composed, meaning you are not interrupting but maintaining an air of confidence that is attractive to hiring managers.

Another good trick is to pretend you were actually in the room with them. I’ve said about the mental benefits of it but smiling also affects how you speak, to the point that listeners can identify the type of smile based on sound alone. So smiling as if you were there will help add an extra layer of confidence to your interview.

Answering Questions

Now for the nitty gritty, how do you actually answer the recruiters questions? Simple, keep your answers succinct and clear. Please note I didn’t say short, deliberately. Take your time to explain yourself, but don’t ramble. It’s a fine balance but worth getting the hang of.

For a great way of doing just that use the STAR system. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This is a nifty way of answering questions with enough detail but without waffling.

It was designed to help answer interview questions, so use it.

End of the call

Your first impression counts for a lot. So does your final impression. You should ask questions about the role that the interviewer may not have gone over such as these.

Now that the interview is wrapped up thank them for their time and reinforce your interest in the role.

Follow up the call within a week with an email or note saying thank you and asking for feedback.

Next Steps

Remember, the point of a telephone interview is to sort you out from the rest of the applicants, so a strong first impression is vital. Following these tips will give you the best possible chance at being asked for a face to face interview. That’s when the real fun starts! Luckily we have a guide for that.

As always I wish you the best in your job search and good luck.

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