Tips for a successful telephone interview
Telephone interviews are commonly used by organisations to assess candidates who appear to have the required skills, knowledge and experience on their CVs. They have the advantage of being convenient for both the interviewer and interviewee, and it gives the organisation an opportunity to decide whether or not to invite you in for a face-to-face interview.
What to expect
Most telephone interviews typically last between 15 minutes and 1 hour in length; most are structured, formal interviews using competency-based questions (outlined below) whilst others can follow a more unstructured approach. Either way, there are several things that you can do to increase your chances of being successful.
Can I prepare?
Yes, of course. In many ways, a telephone interview is no different from a face-to-face interview. However, there are some key differences to consider first:
- Mobile phone signal
If you are going to use a mobile phone, ensure that you will be stationary in a place that allows for a strong signal. It is equally important to check that you have sufficient battery life for the duration of the call
- Background noise
Find a quiet, comfortable place to have the interview. Turn off any background devices (radio, TV etc.) and make sure that you are not going to be disturbed during the call.
- Keep relevant documents close to hand
You can have your CV, a copy of the job advert / specification and any notes to hand; lay them out so that you can refer to them if necessary
- Compose yourself
Don’t be in a rush; give yourself plenty of time and have a glass of water nearby in case you need it.
The rules for punctuality apply equally for telephone interviews as they do face face-to-face; be ready to receive the call at the agreed time (or make the call to the interviewer on-time, depending upon the arrangement).
It is also important to greet, speak and respond to the interviewer using the same professional approach as if you were meeting them face-to-face. Greet them politely and allow them to explain the format of the interview to you.
Most questions are likely to be based on your CV, and the interviewer will be looking to talk through your current/recent jobs, probe any gaps, and confirm achievements. Be positive, confident and enthusiastic – and don’t waffle! It is harder to gauge the response of the interviewer over the telephone, and the tendency is to “over talk”. Answer questions politely, professionally and concisely, and then stop talking.
It is never a good idea to speak badly about a current/previous employer either.
You may also be asked questions which ask you for examples of where you have demonstrated certain competencies. A competency-based question could be something like:
“Give an example of a challenge you faced in your last job, and how you overcame it”
A good way to answer these types of questions is by using the STAR technique:
Situation: What was the situation? What were the specific circumstances?
Task: What tasks did you need to complete?
Actions: What did you do?
Results: What was the end result? What did you achieve? What went wrong - and if something did, what did you learn from it?
You can prepare for competency-based questioning by making a list of the skills that you think are essential to the role you have applied for, and thinking of good examples that will demonstrate that you have those skills. Refer to the job advert/description for these, or contact your Consultant for guidance. Typical competencies might be:
Delivering under pressure
Handling difficult customers
Most importantly, listen carefully to the question and make sure you provide an example of what is being asked, not just telling the interviewer what you want them to know. But don’t be afraid to be specific and talk about what you did e.g. “I spoke to lots of different individuals” not “we spoke to lots of different individuals”.
It is always recommended to ask questions yourself; this could be at an appropriate point during the interview, or at the end when asked. Asking well-thought out and sensible questions shows that you have a genuine interest in the role, and that you are taking the application process seriously. This is a good chance to ask about company expansion plans, what the size of your potential team will be, or what career options might exist after 12 months etc. Questions about holiday entitlement, overtime payments, dress code etc. can be directed to your Consultant after the interview.
It is always courteous to thank the interviewer for considering you in their recruitment process.
Once you’ve finished, call your Consultant and tell us all about it. This is an important step, and allows us to listen to your feedback before we hear from the interviewer and discuss whether you have been successful at this stage.
Prepare thoroughly, talk professionally, be positive about yourself and your achievements, and show an enthusiasm for the role that you are applying for – and you’ll perform well!