Performing well in a telephone interview

8 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

Telephone interviews are continuing to grow in popularity and have widely become one of the key stages within the recruitment process. They’re useful for urgent roles that need filling quickly or for first stage interviews. However, these can be daunting for candidates who may not have much experience with interviewing over the phone.

During a telephone interview an employer can get an understanding of your experience without having to set up numerous timely and formal interviews. Equally, you may have your phone call with the Hiring Manager, who would prefer to chat on the phone before setting up a meeting with what could end up being your direct line manager.

This means that the hiring cycle can be shortened, and it is therefore crucial that you make a strong first impression to ensure you are shortlisted for a formal interview and make it onto the next stage of the hiring process.

Below you will find all of our top tips for performing well during a telephone interview.

Make sure you come across well

A key part of the telephone interview is how you come across over the phone. This might sound obvious but you should think about your tone, sense of humour and how to best showcase your personality. You will have to go the extra mile as the interviewer cannot see your facial expressions or your body language.

You need to sound keen and engaged, so try to relax prior to the conversation taking place to ensure you’re calm. Make sure you have a drink to hand, in the event that you may need this while you’re speaking.

Top tip: plan where to take the call. Make sure you are in a quiet room with plenty of signal when the call comes through to ensure you are not disrupted. If you live with others, let them know that you will be taking an important call, or try to plan the call during a time when you know the house will be quieter.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

You still need to prepare as you would for a normal face-to-face interview. Make sure you research the company, their vision, values as well as information about the person interviewing you - they will more than likely be on a 'Meet the team' section of the website.

Look at things others might not necessarily think to, for example: does the company get involved in any charity work, do they hold any awards or accreditations that you are particularly impressed with, or have they been in any local/national news recently.

Keep your CV in front of you

An obvious benefit of telephone interviews is the ability to review your CV whilst speaking to the interviewer. Consider keeping it by the phone so you are able to quickly take a look if you may need to.

You could also have the job description in front of you, as well as any information about the company. Be careful not to have too much help though as you still want to sound natural and you won’t have this during the formal interview stage.

Sell yourself

If you have a telephone interview the chances are that the employer is also speaking to a number of other candidates, so make sure you stand out. Think about why you should be invited to the next stage and what skills differentiate you from your competitors and get that across throughout the interview.

Tell them what excites you about the role, highlight your strengths in relation to the role, and think about how you are going to stand out against the other interviewees with very similar experiences to yourself.

You voice is your instrument when taking part in a phone interview so there’s nothing wrong with a practice run with a family member or friend to make sure you’re conveying confidence and professionalism. You could also consider recording yourself to check your pace.

Close the interview well

It is important to end the interview on a positive note. Make sure you ask questions and try to be innovative. Choose questions that are company or person specific, so it shows that you have done your research, and listen carefully to the answers in case you need to respond further.

More on interview questions below.

Ensure you have got enough signal and battery charge

This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people get caught out by this and only realise at the very last moment. Make sure you have sufficient signal (test this beforehand) on your phone.

Make sure your battery is charged and won’t cut the call off. If you need to, keep it charging or use a power bank.

Keep cool under pressure

Time is limited but resist the temptation to talk too quickly. Be succinct and if you want to go into more detail, ask the interviewer if this is appropriate. If you have not fully understood a question, check with the interviewer to increase your understanding. This will give you more time to prepare an answer and prevent long silences over the phone.

Allow adequate time

Ensure that you set aside enough time for the interview. We have had experienced candidates who have needed to end calls prematurely due to other commitments, which does not give the best impression.

Allow 45 minutes to an hour for the call to be on the safe side.

Common interview questions

Here are some of the typical questions you might be asked during a telephone interview, remember this is usually one of the first steps in the process:

  • Tell me about yourself and your experience. It’s best here to speak about your current role and how it makes your qualified for the job you’re interviewing for, as well as some personal information to give a feel of who you are.

  • Why are you interested in this position? This allows the interviewer to get an idea of how serious about the role. You should have researched the company and made sure you are familiar with the job description, expanding on some of the points listed within it.

  • What do you know about the role? Similar to the above question, this is to ensure that you’ve really looked at the position. The interviewer needs to know that you understand the basics of the role and how much research you have done. This is a great opportunity to ask questions you’re not sure on to broaden your knowledge and demonstrate your enthusiasm.

  • Where do you see yourself in the next few years? It’s wise and sensible for hiring managers or interviewers to try and find out early on what your career expectations are, particularly to see whether they align with the company and the possibilities that the role can offer.

  • What is your notice period/when can you start? The interviewer might be looking to fill the position immediately, it would be helpful to check your current contract and see what your notice period is.

  • Do you have any questions? Always yes. Research the company’s website to see whether anything sticks out or simply ask for more information about the day-to-day role. You could think about asking for more detail about growth – in regards to both the company and yourself. You can also end your questions by asking when you might expect to hear back regarding the next steps.

Got a telephone interview coming up and need more help? We would be more than happy to help: get in touch today.