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Interviews - Getting the phone interview right

Nov 22
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Telephone interviews are the best way to weed out unsuitable applicants quickly and effectively, so they have become the norm for many companies. The candidate’s goal in an initial telephone interview is to secure a face-to-face interview with the company. Here are some tips that will help you secure that meeting.

Be ready. Most interviews are scheduled in advance, so you should have time to prepare. Make sure you have the basics covered for a good conversation – e.g. find a quiet place where you can talk freely, have a good mobile signal and enough battery.

Don’t waffle. The phone call is supposed to save you both time, so don’t waste it unnecessarily. Prepare a short history of your career in bullet points to help keep you on track throughout the call.

Sell yourself. Make a checklist of messages that will help you sell yourself as an employee and work these into the conversation.

Research. Learn as much as you can about the job and company but also find out about the interviewer. Building rapport will be easier if you know something about them.

Don’t lead. Allow the interviewer to guide the call - let them kick off, control the flow of the conversation and ask most questions. Most calls seem to start off with ‘tell me about yourself’ or something similar, so be prepared to tell this story in a succinct way that helps convince the interviewer you should meet.

Take notes. Take advantage of the fact that you are not in the same room as the interviewer. Use notes to remind you to talk about relevant topics. For example, note a problem the interviewer mentioned and refer to a story that shows you are a problem solver. These notes will also provide a vital recap before a face-to-face meeting.

Ask the right questions. Prepare some useful questions and take advantage of the fact you can have these in front of you during the interview.

Some easy telephone questions:

  • Why is this position available?
  • Why did the last person in the job leave?
  • What are the first projects I’ll take on?
  • What are my department’s biggest challenges and how will I be involved in facing these?
  • What’s the formula for a successful employee in the company?

These aren’t just for answering the inevitable ‘have you got questions for me?’ but a way for you to open up opportunities to sell your skills or suitability for the role and company.

Make the right noises. Give verbal signals of engagement when the interviewer is talking, but don’t interrupt them. This means using the verbal equivalents of nodding and other body language that show you are engaged in a face-to-face conversation so the interviewer knows you are focused.

Talk about money later. Don’t bring up salary, holidays and benefits during a phone interview. Remember, the objective is to get a second meeting, which is a more appropriate time to discuss these subjects.


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