Top Tips for Acing Telephone Interviews

Recruitment is a costly business for employers and the time and resources that it takes to plan, organize and conduct interviews in itself can place a considerable financial burden on them.  With only a resume to go on to help them decide who to invite for interview though, it can sometimes be hard to establish which of their many job applicants are most likely to be a good fit, not just in terms of their ability to do the job, but also in terms of the company’s culture.  Select the wrong ones and they could end up having to carry out second or even third rounds of interviews to give them a reasonable choice of candidate, which of course means that their recruitment costs spiral even further.

Telephone interviews are a very effective way for recruiters to screen potential candidates in or out, and of course being able to talk to applicants not only provides them with the opportunity to drill deeper into the contents of their resumes, but also gives them a much better insight into the applicants as people. 

In cases where recruiters/hiring managers are not based in your location, telephone interviews are an ideal way to make initial candidate assessments before committing to paying the travel and accommodation costs associated with face-to-face interviews.  Where the job requires a good telephone manner, they also represent an excellent method of gauging how well potential candidates perform over the phone.

Although telephone interviews might sound like a breeze compared to having to meet recruiters in the flesh, they can in fact be disasters waiting to happen if potential candidates aren’t fully prepared for them.  Many recruiters, for example, can recount tales of hearing the toilet flush in the background or of trying to conduct interviews with a TV blaring in the background which clearly killed the applicants’ chances of success.  So, if you want to make the best possible impression and ace your telephone interview, here are a few useful tips to help guide you.

  1. Although many employers will let you know that you need to take part in a phone interview and will arrange a mutually convenient time for it to take place, others will spring it on you unexpectedly.  Whenever you apply for a job, always assume that there will be a phone interview and prepare for it so that you are not caught off guard.
  2. Make sure that your resume and any notes that you make by way of preparation for a phone interview are always kept handy by the phone, along with a pen.  You might also find it useful to jot down any questions that you want to ask and perhaps a separate list of your achievements.
  3. If a recruiter calls you on your cell phone and you are not somewhere quiet where you can speak in private and your resume isn’t to hand, then explain to the caller that it isn’t convenient for you to take the call at the moment and arrange the phone interview for a more suitable day and/or time.
  4. Never eat, drink or smoke when you are talking to a recruiter on the phone. The sounds of chewing, swallowing and blowing out smoke transmit loudly down a phone line.
  5. Try to take some notes either during the interview or immediately afterwards.  The questions that you are asked in your phone interview could give you some great clues as to what to expect in the face-to-face interview to follow.
  6. Smile when you talk.  The interviewer may not be able to see your expression but he or she will be able to “hear” the smile in your voice.  Not only will it make you sound more enthusiastic, but it will also help you to sound and feel more relaxed.
  7. Speak slowly and clearly so that you can be properly heard and understood.
  8. Be very careful not to interrupt the interviewer while he or she is talking.
  9. Telephone interviews might seem less formal than face-to-face meetings but that’s no excuse for lapsing into a casual chat.  Remember, the only things that the interviewer has to go on are what you say and how you say it, so be sure to remain professional at all times.
  10. Because your telephone interview is going to be followed up by a face-to-face meeting, try to keep your answers short so that you have something new to talk about later.  Answer the interviewer’s questions, but try to let the interviewer know that he or she can find out many more wonderful things about you in a personal meeting.
  11. Don’t forget to thank the interviewer at the end of the call, as well as to express your interest in the position.
  12. Remember that practice makes perfect.  Just as you would do in advance of a face-to-face interview, try practicing your telephone interview technique with a friend beforehand.  Doing so will help you to gain confidence so that there will be less chance of you stuttering and stammering during the real thing.

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