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How to Ace Your Telephone Interview - Unscheduled Phone Interview

Updated on March 29, 2012
Telephone Interview
Telephone Interview | Source

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The Telephone Interview

Over the past 6 months I have applied to what feels like hundreds of jobs. I have very little experience because I’ve stayed home with my children for the last 10 years so I am applying for anything and everything to see what I can get. I don’t really know what I want to do for a career yet since I haven’t experienced many different settings. That being said, I also do not have experience interviewing. Imagine my surprise when I learned my first interview in 10 years was to be by telephone! The Internet quickly became my best friend as I feverishly researched telephone interview etiquette. I read paper after paper from recruiters explaining how to ace the telephone interview. I compiled a list of all the important facts from each paper and made myself a cheat sheet to leave by my telephone. Here I share with you the knowledge I gained over a period of 9 days in my obsessive desire to have the perfect telephone interview.

Telephone interviews are increasing in popularity. Sometimes they’re used as a simple screening procedure to weed out under qualified candidates and other times they’re used as an invaluable way to seriously interview a candidate who lives far away without paying for travel expenses. Some interviewers want you to be prepared and will only conduct the interview during a prescheduled time. This is the ideal situation because you can have notes prepared, you can be sure there is minimal background noise and no distractions, and you can take a moment to center yourself before the interview begins. Other interviewers want to catch you off guard to see if you can think fast on your feet and to see if you have superb communication skills. If you are not prepared for an unscheduled telephone interview don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer if you can call back in 10 minutes when you’ve completed something you’re currently working on. Then use those 10 minutes to prepare as best as possible.

How to Prepare for the Telephone Interview

Only take the call when you are ready.If possible schedule the telephone interview during a quiet time when you can devote your entire attention to the call.If the interviewer makes an unscheduled call do not hesitate to ask for a few minutes to complete another task.You could say “I’m very interested in taking this call but you caught me in the middle of something. Would it be alright if I took 10 minutes to complete this task and then called you back?” If the interviewer says no you may want to reconsider the company as a potential employer. If the interviewer says yes thank him or her, prepare your notes and yourself in the 10 minutes, call the interviewer back, and then thank the interviewer for allowing you time to complete the previous task.

Remove all distractions.Take the phone call in a quiet room away from all distractions such as roommates, family, the television, or the radio. Keep background noise to a minimum and go to another room, preferably one with a door you can close. You will need your full attention on the telephone call and the slightest distraction coupled with nerves can send the best of us into a tailspin.

Resumes
Resumes | Source
Notebook - take notes!
Notebook - take notes! | Source

Keep your telephone interview tools by the phone. If you are applying for a job and you learn that a telephone interview is to be conducted prepare the following and leave it beside the telephone and ready at all times:

  • Your resume: If you tailor your resume to certain positions you will need to have a copy of the resume you applied with on hand. Many times the interviewer will want you to explain your resume in more detail without actually reading it like a resume. This is when you can fill in between the lines and include information that may have previously made the resume too long.
  • Pen and paper: You can take down the interviewer’s name, the location of the interviewer, questions that arise during the interview and any other necessary information such as next steps to take in the interview process.
  • Company research: You should always know at least the basic information of the company to which you are applying. An interviewer may ask why you think you’d be a good fit for the company – you do not want to say “I don’t know, what do ya’ll do again?” Be sure to have a few questions about the company too in order to show that you did your research and you truly are interested in the company as a long-term career. However, don’t ask about salary and benefits right away. Hopefully the interviewer will bring this up on his or her own.
  • Lists: These lists should include your strengths and weaknesses, your experience as it relates to the position in question, and a list of goals and expectations from the position such as “I would love to come into the company as an entry level marketer, learn the organization from the ground up, and eventually move into a managerial position.” The previous statement shows an interest in learning the basics of the company and an interest in your future with the company.

Stand when talking during the interview. Your position affects the quality of your voice due to air flow. If you are slouched in a sitting position you will not project the same enthusiasm and interest as you would from a standing position. Also smile while you talk, the interviewer really can hear it in your voice.

Let the interviewer end the call. Get the interviewer’s name and an address in case he or she is not local. Send a note of thanks to the interviewer – state your continued interest in the position and thank him or her for the time he or she took to learn about you and your qualifications.

Typical Interview Questions:

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • How do you handle stressful situations?
  • Can you accept constructive criticism?
  • What is the toughest problem you've had to face, and how did you overcome it?
  • Have you ever had to discipline a problem employee? If so, how did you handle it?
  • Why do you want this position?
  • Why are you the best person for this job?

Questions you can ask when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?” Ask questions about the company or the job position. Do not ask questions about money or benefits just yet. Some acceptable questions are:

  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Is there anything I’ve mentioned that makes you think I’m not the best candidate for this job?
  • When do you expect to make your final decision?


I wish you the best of luck on your telephone interview. Remember, you’re selling yourself here so don’t hesitate to make yourself sound great!


Update 1/17/2012 I did get the position that I interviewed for!!

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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      This is a wonderful "How To" piece and it is to your credit that you took the time to share it. Thanks.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      5 years ago from Neverland

      The writing and ideas speak all on their own. If the Hub sucked people wouldn't read it :) You do good so you get the traffic

    • auirek profile image

      Tsvetelin Naydenov 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Yes actually since I became active again I increased the views by 56 for 3 days. Most views I got from the hub I did in response to yours "50 gifts for man under $20". Thanks again for sharing it in your hub. I really appreciate it :)))

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      5 years ago from Neverland

      Wow, 1000 views even without any activity on your part? That's great!! I expect to see many more Hubs from you. Get to publishing and then get involved in comments and you'll really see your traffic go up even more =)

    • auirek profile image

      Tsvetelin Naydenov 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Yeah, now that I was absent for so long, I pay more attention to the quality of my hubs. And this picture just caught my eyes haha. Can you imagine, even absent with no activity I got 1000 hub views. I'm so impressed. People actually read my hubs. Now I'm more motivated than ever. :)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      5 years ago from Neverland

      Hi auirek, long time no see =) I was a little rattled by my first phone interview but now I feel like I could easily ace one. As for the pic - it really is a good image, huh? I never noticed and I have no idea why it is so sharp ... hopefully someone else will see this and comment!!

    • auirek profile image

      Tsvetelin Naydenov 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hey Ardie, this was very interesting and useful hub. I actually never got the chance to have a phone interview. By the way how did you get so good quality image on your hub. Is the image mpeg format?

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      5 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Rodric :) thanks my friend! I think phone interviews are...different. I still can't decide if I prefer the phone or in person. But the way hiring goes now I don't have much choice!

      Hi Kaili, thanks! Let me know if anything here helps :)

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Excellent advice here. I'll be better prepared next time.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      5 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      This is digital gold here. I am looking for other opportunities and I have botched a few phone interviews. I am going to take this hub for my next practice and get this next interview past the phone! Thanks voted up and shared.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hello Marcy :) Thank you so much for your sweet words. I have been meaning to come back to this hub to update it and I kept forgetting. So I thank you for bringing my attention back to it. I DID get the job I interviewed for and I have orientation Jan 25 and I AM SO EXCITED!! Thanks for reading.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      6 years ago from Planet Earth

      These are good, solid tips! I hope everyone uses them, and I hope you get the dream job you deserve. You can do it - you have a lot of talent!

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi RealHousewife! Im so glad to see you here. It seems to be the only kind of interviews I can get anymore...and I have yet to land any of the jobs...so maybe my advice isn't that great hahah Seriously though - my availability is my huge downfall. I can only work evenings or weekends :( But thanks for reading!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This must be really common now! My 23 year old had a telephone interview...(I was home so I was listening!!) lol. She did get the job but even she said it was weird to try to be professional and listen intently.

      I love the tips - you are really smart! When I went for the interview at the sleep lab - I didn't know anything about sleep disorders but I totally researched all of that before the interview. I admitted that I didn't know much but researched it too - and I got the job! Great career! Don't be nervous - your all that!!

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Thanks for reading Susan! I prefer over the phone so the other person can't see just how nervous I am :)

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I've never had an interview over the phone before but I am thinking it might be a bit easier than a face to face one. I've bookmarked you hub just in case I ever need to do a phone interview. Great hub!

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Thank you so much Ana! I appreciate the support :)

    • Ana Teixeira profile image

      Ana Teixeira 

      6 years ago from Oporto, Porto, Portugal

      Very good advice .. no doubt! Voted up

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Very clever! I would like to think I'd handle the situation the same. However I more than likely would just panic and be flustered hahah

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 

      6 years ago from Washington state

      I finished through the first one without trying to sound busy, and called the original interviewer back to express my apologies and explain the situation. I guess they thought it was funny too so we continued our originally planned interview and they eventually hired me :)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Oooh Shaddie! That would be a tough situation hahah Im glad to hear you still got the job. How on Earth did you manage that? Did you rush the unscheduled one and explain to the other or ask for a call back from the first company?

    • Shaddie profile image

      Shaddie 

      6 years ago from Washington state

      Ah, the phone interview... There was once a time when I had scheduled to take a phone interview for a specific time in the morning. I had gotten all ready, I woke up early, I ate a good breakfast, I even dressed appropriately. Literally minutes before the interviewer called, ANOTHER business called and popped a completely random, unscheduled phone interview on me! So I'm trying to do one interview, and while I'm on the phone, the aforementioned interviewer I had an appointment with is trying to call me! Needless to say it made me rather anxious... But I did get the job ;)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Sunshine :) Thanks for stopping in! Lets see if those tips will be enough to land me the job I want.

      Cagsil, how great to see you and thank for the compliment!

      tammyswallow, I couldn't imagine how nerve-wracking that would be to have the unscheduled phone interview. I had to prepare for a whole day and put my dog in another room because he barks at everything. Good luck with the job hunt - it's a tough one out there.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very outstanding Hub. I have been job hunting for a long time now. I have been taken off guard by two employers (both were temporary agencies) that called me, unscheduled, and proceeded with an interview. Normally I would like to prepare..or make sure my toddler isn't hungry or fussing. This is a great, relevant, timely hub.. Learned a lot!

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 

      6 years ago from USA or America

      Very nicely written Ardie. It will be very useful to your readers who will be in this particular situation. :)

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Outstanding hub with lots of tips:)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Om Paramapoonya :) Im glad you stopped in. I guess both in-person and telephone interviews have good points. I like to gauge the person's reactions to my answers too and its difficult to do that on the phone most times. But yes, pj interviews wearing curlers are ALWAYS nice hahah

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      6 years ago

      What I really like about the telephone interview is that I can do it in my pajamas with my hair looking like a bird's nest. But for some reason, I usually prefer a real interview where I get to sit with the interviewer and observe their reaction to my answers. It makes me less nervous when I see them smile or give me an approving nod, I guess. Your advice is very helpful. Thanks so much for sharing. :)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Oooh Stephanie. Excellent question to ask! I always dread the question "Is there anything you'd like to ask me?" Im afraid to ask a question that was already answered during the talk or that is on the 'no-no' list. Thanks for adding this. Anything else you want to add - go for it!!!!!! Advice from the other side is ALWAYS welcome.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      These are great tips! Since I've been on both ends of a telephone interview, I might also suggest another question you could ask. If the interviewer does not tell you exactly what the job entails, do ask for a more detailed description of the job responsibilities. Some jobs are self descriptive, but others, like administrative assistant, can include a very wide variety of duties from making coffee to designing spreadsheets.

      Your article is very well thought out, and I think that anyone following your advice will make a good impression in a telephone interview.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Frank and thanks for the bookmark :)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      Ardie.. this is very useful.. bookmark in case my daughter needs this article :)

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi mistifields, thanks for reading :)

    • mistifields profile image

      mistifields 

      6 years ago

      Great information. Thanks.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Thanks Chatkath :) I'm glad companies do the telephone interview, it increases their potential hiring pool. The company I interview with tomorrow is based 4 hours from my house! I've printed out my resume, my online application, and jotted down answers to the most common questions. Now all I need to remember is to slow my speech!

    • Chatkath profile image

      Kathy 

      6 years ago from California

      Great tips ardie! This is really a popular and inexpensive method of weeding out "unsuitable" candidates so I think we will see more telephone interviews in the near future. Definitely know the company and the job you are applying for and have a copy of your resume in front of you! I couldn't agree more! Anyone looking for a job should bookmark this hub, rated up and useful!

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi Jen, I don't really like talking on the phone either :P I don't drift off but it makes my ear burn and then I move around too much resulting in hearing my own breath through the phone.

      Hi Vinaya, thank you so very much! Hopefully it will help someone :)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      6 years ago from Nepal

      This is very useful article. I'm sharing on facebook and twitter.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 

      6 years ago

      Wow what cool information, I fear I would fail horribly for I suck at phone conversations, I will drift off, I will lose focus.

    • Ardie profile imageAUTHOR

      Sondra 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Hi PBWife – I thought back and now realize I had the same problem! I’d want to blab away because I was afraid to say too little. And it’s hard to get body language cues over the phone as to when its time for the next question. Thanks for the vote!

      Nicregi – You are right: going with the flow, being confident, and being yourself will carry you very far :)

      Melissa-Chavez – I was shocked when I had my first telephone interview. And now I have another one Monday – eek! Wish me luck. That’s what made me think to make this hub.

      Angela, let me know if you get the job! I have one Monday – fingers crossed :)

      Hi Robert – I am still coming to terms with the telephone interview. I like them only because my availability is very limited because of the kids. I can always threaten them into total silence for a phone call though!

      Haunty – Im glad you added to the conversation – I didn’t take cultural differences into consideration when I wrote this.

      Purple Turtle – I never did hiring before so Im glad you chimed in with your experience! Don’t tell anyone but my quote “I would love to come into the company as an entry level marketer, learn the organization from the ground up, and eventually move into a managerial position” is actually my standard answer whether I want to stay forever or not :)

      Weestro, you’re so funny! I’d be afraid the interviewer would “hear” my silly face :P

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      Great tips here, especially the part about standing up. I like telephone interviews because I can make a funny face after i flub a question. Voted up and useful!

    • Purple Turtle profile image

      Purple Turtle 

      6 years ago from Home

      This is a great Hub, not just on Telephone Interviewing, but Interviewing in general. I would know. I was once the manager of a restaurant and had to manage all of the hiring and firing. Your quote, - “I would love to come into the company as an entry level marketer, learn the organization from the ground up, and eventually move into a managerial position.” - is very important. If anyone thinks that they might want to stay with a company for a long period of time it is important to bring up the fact that you are interested in promotions even before you are hired. This conveys the aspect of self motivation and responsibility.

    • Haunty profile image

      Haunty 

      6 years ago from Hungary

      I have had a few telephone interviews. Here they like to take you off guard as much as possible. Often they don't even disclose the name of the company in their ad, only the position and requirements. They don't want you to be prepared. Thanks for the great tips on how to ace the telephone interview!

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 

      6 years ago from California

      Awesome Ardie! Thanks for sharing. Interviews are tough in general - the phone makes it a bit less stressful,but also requires on your ability to verbally express yourself more. Very useful. Voting you up for sure!

    • angela p profile image

      angela p 

      6 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      I just had a phone interview yesterday! Wish I would have had this information. Oh well. Great hub and I will use it the next time.

    • Melissa-Chavez profile image

      Melissa-Chavez 

      6 years ago from Pacoima,CA

      I've never had a phone interview but thanks for the tips. If i ever do get a phone interview i feel pretty sure i'll do just fine. Thanks again!

    • nicregi profile image

      Reginald Chan 

      6 years ago from Malaysia

      I myself had been in phone interview less than 5 times and I would say the best is go along with the flow. If you are able to figure out what is the next question, you would do pretty well. Of course, the core of everything is being confident and being yourself!

      Good hub.

    • PeanutButterWine profile image

      PeanutButterWine 

      6 years ago from North Vancouver, B.C. Canada

      Loved this hub! All really useful tips for the phone interview... I always found I over talked on my phone interviews and had to make a conscious effort to keep my answers short and professional, just as if it was a real interview (tougher to do on a phone for some reason!) blah blah blah... haha. Voted up!

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