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5 Things You Need to Know About Telephone Interviews

Updated on June 2, 2012

What is a Telephone Interview?

Telephone interviews are conducted by prospective employers with the aim of selecting the best candidates to invite to a face to face interview. They may consist of a quick chat to find out a little more about you or they may be a formal and structured interview consisting of a set of behavioral questions. Having applied for a job or jobs you may be called at any time for a telephone interview.  Or it may be that you are making the call to an organization that has advertised a position. Here are five things you need to consider to help you get to the next stage of the interview process and ultimately, to get the job.

1. You Need to be Available

Employers often receive large numbers of applications for a position, particularly if it is a popular profession or a well paid role. The absolute first thing you need to think about is whether a prospective employer can get in touch with you. While you can't necessarily be available at every moment you can have a voicemail service on your phone, or you can list several phone numbers on your resume so an employer has alternatives if you do not respond on the first number. This may sound like a really simple and obvious point however many candidates lose opportunities because the prospective employer has called several times and cannot get on to them. In this eventuality the employer just moves on to the next name on the list.

If you are the one making the call in response to an advertised position, you need to move fast. You don't know how much competition you may have and you don't know how many calls the employer will accept before deciding they have enough candidates. Calling early will not only show your enthusiasm but also may help ensure that you make the shortlist.

2. You Need to Sound Professional

Do you have a funny or downright rude message on your voicemail? When you're looking for a job, it may be wise to change it to something more professional. Similarly, when you answer your phone you need to sound professional and courteous. "Yeah, what's happenin'" can work if you are seeking a job in an internet startup company however it may not work so well if you are looking for a job with a bank.

3. You Need to Sound Positive and Energetic

Once again this sounds like a very obvious point, however it doesn't matter how good your skills and experience are if you communicate them in a lethargic or negative manner. It is really important to sound positive and enthusiastic. Use the old tip of smiling so that it comes through in your voice. Employers want to employ positive enthusiastic people, not those who are disinterested, sulky and complaining. Make sure you are a positive candidate in your use of words and in your tone of voice.

4. You Need to Know What You Are Talking About

Let's say you receive a call from XYZ company who have received your job application and wish to speak to you further. Let's say also that you have put in so many job applications that you cannot remember who XYZ company are or even the type of position that they advertised. You're going to sound more than a little foolish if you have to ask who they are and what the job is. Keep a diary of positions you have applied for to avoid this problem.

You also need to know the contents of your own resume well and be able to explain how your skills and experience are well aligned with the requirements of the position you are applying for. Being unfamiliar with your own work history and being unable to explain why you are interested in this particular position do not communicate the best picture of your capabilities to a potential employer.

5. You Need to Sell Yourself

You have already started doing this by being available, professional, positive and knowledgeable.  As the telephone conversation is the only evidence of your attitude and skills besides your resume that the prospective employer has at this point, you need to maximize the opportunity.  Be prepared to answer questions in relation to your skills, experience, achievements and the things you are looking for in a role.  Behavioral interviewing is commonly used even in telephone interviews so it is worth reading up on the process so that you can offer the best possible examples of your abilities.  You also need to convince the interviewer that you want the job and be able to say why (apart from the salary and benefits) you want it.

At the End of the Call

You might be invited to a face to face interview immediately or you might be told the organization will be in touch with you at a later time.  If you don't get to the next stage of the interview process, it is not necessarily a reflection of your performance, it may be that someone else had better skills and experience.  If there were areas where you felt the conversation was not going well, think about ways you could improve.  For example, if your computer skills are not up to scratch or you were hesitant whether you were comfortable with some aspect of the job.  You can always do some training to improve your computer skills and in any other areas where you might not be totally confident.  Then you can go on to win a face to face interview for the next job.



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