How to succeed at a telephone interview


The telephone interview is a popular first stage of many recruitment processes now – not just with a recruiter but also with the end employer themselves. As such, we thought it would be a good idea to run through some of the things you should bear in mind if you are ever invited to participate in one, and also the things that you should very definitely avoid…

DO make sure that you still do your research! A telephone interview should be approached with the same dedication as you would a face to face meeting, so please ensure that you have looked up the size of the company, what their market is currently like, any company news and similar. As with a meeting in person you are best to start off with the website of the employer themselves, but looking at competitors or any industry specific news would also be recommended.

DON’T think that you can just wing it, or look them up while you are on the call. This is disrespectful and shows a lack of interest in the position, and they will know! It should be treated the same way as a face to face meeting in every aspect and research is a key part of this.

DO write down your questions you want to ask, remember that this is a two-way process and therefore a good opportunity for you to find out some more about them as well.

DON’T get distracted – make sure that there is no television on in the background that may take your attention for a minute, and try and take the call in a room with no external stimulus, including family and pets. Also, and it is daft I have to say this, please don’t take the call on the toilet! Yes it has happened, and when the interviewer hears the flush they know…

DO have your CV to hand – make sure that you have a copy in front of you to refer to. The interviewer will almost certainly have it as well, and it is something that can be used as a good introduction to the call whilst examining your communication skills initially.

DON’T – sound bored. You have to remain attentive and make sure that you sound interested throughout the whole conversation. Don’t yawn or mumble, and just make sure that you sound like you are interested in the call and eager to be a part of the company.

DO smile. Yes they can’t see you, but we are told that you can hear when someone is smiling and it helps the voice to sound more upbeat and enthusiastic.

DON’T eat whilst you are on the call. Make sure that you have quelled any hunger pangs in plenty of time for the appointment, because talking through a mouthful of food isn’t going to get you remembered for the right reasons… a glass of water to sip from is fine (indeed recommended) but no food or carbonated drinks etc that the other side of the call may be able to hear. Also, please don’t chew gum or smoke whilst on the call; again – we can tell.

DO listen – the most important part of any interview. Ensure that you are listening properly to the whole question and takes notes of anything important – this should help you if anything is referred to back later in the process, and gives you some guidance when it comes to any other questions or, hopefully, the next stage.

DON’T interrupt. Make sure that the interviewer has always finished their sentence before you start replying, there is no harm in allowing for a little gap before you start talking and indeed it may help you formulate a good response to the question. Speaking over the person who is asking the questions, the person who you are trying to impress and will make the decision about whether you are progressed or not, is not a good idea.

If you follow this guidance then hopefully you will ace your telephone interview and be one step closer to your new job, but if you have any concerns or want to talk to us then please do get in touch with our expert team and see how we can help. 

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