Telephone Interview Tips

Friday, October 23rd, 2009 - Job Application, Job Interview, Job Interview Questions, Job Interview Techniques, job search, Telephone Interview

Telephone Interview Tips

James, I think your cover's blown!

The Telephone Interview is the second most likely place a job seeker will be rejected in a job search. Having got through the CV sifting exercise successfully, and shown on paper that you have the required communication of skills, qualifications and experience, the job applicant now has to both prove that the CV paper claims are in actual fact real in their core, and that they have social fit with the organisation.

But if approached correctly, a telephone interview allows the successful job seeker to have a ready made advantage in the next stage of employment, the physical job interview. While, if they do not follow some simple rules and techniques, they will be quickly rejected by a potential future employer.

Tip1: Before you job seek, be prepared – the moment your CV or resume is sent to a potential employer, the clock is ticking on your phone ringing for a telephone interview. Hence, prepare and be ready for the telephone interview before you apply, over afterwards

Tip2: Set up a Job Search Tool Kit – your job search tool kit should consist of: a copy of your generic CV/resume; your diary; a list of the jobs/employers you have applied for; a sheet for each job application, that includes a copy of the job advert; a professional eMail address; a dedicated cellphone; a singular postal address. You should also set-up a job search area in your home, where you can sit quietly when required at a computer to research and apply for jobs, and also make outbound phone calls on a land line telephone.

Tip3: When writing your CV/resume, plan and direct the communication – much as having a good and professional eMail address is key to gaining credibility in the job search, so is having clear telephone communication. We always recommend to job seekers that they purchase a dedicated Pay As You Go/disposable cellphone while job seeking. This avoids the problem of mixing personal and business calls, and keeps your job search remote from your existing employer

Tip4: Telephone Etiquette – we all know how to answer and on talk on the telephone. But, as the telephone interview will be the first human impression that a potential employers gets of you, you need to pay a bit more attention when job seeking. One of the reasons for using a PAYG?disposable cellphone, is that when it rings it mentally alerts you to the agenda of the potential caller, and therefore should have a postive effect on the way you address that call. Accepting that at times your phone may need to be switched off or you are busy, your voicemail should also address the caller professionally.

Tip5: Take advantage of the psychology of the telephone – excellent though it is, there are problems with the telephone as a form of communication. Studies have shown that less than 15% of communication between human beings is verbal; and yet there you are with poor cellphone reception, in the middle of a busy office or airport, trying to win a job! Secondly, studies have shown that in the majority of situations, the caller has the power in a telephone conversation over the receiver. Accepting this situation, use this knowledge to your power. When you take a call on your dedicated cellphone, after introducing yourself note down the callers name, company and telephone number. Then, unless you are sat at your job search location, advise the caller that you are about to do something important that was pre-scheduled, and you only have 5mins to talk; hence, could you call them back in the next [couple of hours/day at maximum] for a dedicated when conversation when you both can dedicate the required time to a professional conversation. You have now gained two advantages: at worst, you have limited the duration of this conversation to 5mins; at best, you have set up a situation where you have psychological control of the conversation.

Tip6: The conversation agenda – though a telephone interview may to some be frightening and concerning, in reality the limitations of the telephone as a communications system, and the focus of the conversation for the employer/recruiter, mean that the agenda is limited. The limit is defined by: the job advert and job description; what you have said on your CV/resume and Cover Letter. To take the time to arrange a telephone interview, the employer/recruiter (most often an HR person) is conclduing that you do seem to have the required match of skills, qualifications and experiences. Hence, the main objective of the telephone interview is simply seeking to confirm that. Your best strategy therefore is simply to stick to answering their questions in a STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result), and don’t get creative beyond anything you have said on your CV.

Tip7: Pre-prepared answers – as the agenda is limited, and as the focus is still as much on screen as questioning, it is worth practising some standard interview questions. I don’t agree with this choice for physical interviews, where a skilled interviewer can use some common pressure techniques to manage your responses. But, on a telephone interview, preparation becomes key to controlling your voice, and hence the clarity of your communications. Typical questions would include:

  • Tell Me About Yourself: repeat your personal statement from your CV/resume
  • What do you know about the organisation: state back your research
  • How did you learn about this position: refer to your notes
  • Why are you looking for a new position: repeat your personal statement from your CV/resume
  • What is your current salary/What are your compensation requirements: confirm the scale of their package offer, but don’t give your immediate salary requirements. At best state that the over package seems at or slightly below current market conditions, and as long as there is some flexibility on their part, you are happy to be flexible yourself.
  • What are your strengths: pick three of the SQE requirements of the job
  • What are your weaknesses: pick one thing that your friends would say

Tip8: Your voice, your employment – the telephone is reliant on one form of communication: vocal. Your voice therefore has a greater input to whether you get to the next stage of the employment process. Much as you have practised answering typical questions, now is the time to practise voice control. Your voice is your voice, and your accent or dialect is your form of speech – no need to start sounding like a 1950’s actor! But you can clarify your speech by standing up during telephone conversations, which straightens your wind pipe and – literally – mentally keeps you on your toes. Secondly, try slowing your speech down, and leaving gaps between sentences. Exercise this by practising counting “One” between words, and at the end of sentences. No need to do this during the telephone interview, but the exercise will have naturally slowed your speech delivery and hence make you clearer to the listener.

Tip9: Close with purpose – much like as you would in a good Cover Letter, close the interview with purpose. There are only two outcomes from a telephone interview – rejection, or physical interview date. So, if the interviewer has not mentioned the next steps, ask about them. If that subtle approach doesn’t work, then precisely ask: “Thank you for your time today, and for telling me about your great organisation. It sounds like a job I would really like to find out more about, as I am sure I could contribute to your organisation. I would really like to meet with you to show what I can do for you. When can you meet me?” Close by agreeing the follow-up actions and agreeing all time scales

Tip10: After the interview – much like as you would in a good Cover Letter, follow-up with an action based Thank You note. List and show the closed actions, and confirm the next stages and time scales. Leave open the option of contacting them if you have not heard from them in the agreed time scales.

If you need more advice on the telephone interview, and successfully reaching the conclusion of you having a diary date for a physical interview, we suggest purchase a copy of our Telephone Interview book, which comes included as part of our Professional CV Service.

Good Luck!


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