Employers often do their first interview over the phone, in particular
for jobs with a high number of applicants. The aim of the phone
interview is to assess whether you are a serious applicant, and whether
it is worth bringing you in for an interview. The ultimate goal is to
showcase both your enthusiasm and your commitment to the position, in a
short conversation. However, many people don’t realise that preparing
ahead of time can dramatically increase their chances of coming across
well and, ultimately getting the job. See below for our top tips on the
best ways to prepare in the run up to the interview.
Research is Essential Preparation:
Phone interviews can be nerve-wracking, so it helps to have done some groundwork-research beforehand. The most basic research you must do (if you have not already done it) is to look into the firm, and find out as much about them as you can. Pay close attention to the job description and think carefully about how you match the spec. Make sure you plan answers to potential questions - in particular, questions such as ‘What interests you about this position?’. Note down any questions you would like to ask - this is important because it ‘flips the script’ and turns the interview into more of a conversation. However, also be aware that the interviewer may be working from a script and have a strict time-limit. Remember, this is a screening process, so the interviewer is just there to tick boxes.
If you have any experience using phone calls in a professional context, this will no doubt help. If you haven’t however, consider asking a friend/relative/someone to practice with. They will be able to give you feedback on how you come across over the phone, which can give you some tips for improvement before the real call. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, record yourself so that you can listen back and identify any room for improvement.
Crucially, you must conduct the phone interview in a quiet setting, i.e. not in Starbucks. Avoid using speakerphone unless you are certain there will be no interruptions. Background noise can mean you have to repeat points, which can break the flow of the conversation.
If you aren’t sure about your mobile phone reception, use a landline instead. There is nothing worse for nerves than the call cutting out half way. Additionally, if you are using a mobile phone, turn it on silent so that the call isn’t interrupted by text message notifications, etc.
It’s a good idea to dress formally, as if it is a real in-person interview, and to sit at a desk rather than on the sofa. This will get you into the right mindset - if you feel professional, you are more likely to sound alert, engaged and professional.
On the table or desk, keep a neat copy of notes and questions, your application/CV, interview details and a pen and paper. Make sure they are in a clear order, so that you can refer to any information required quickly without the sound of rustling paper and long pauses.
Take deep breaths before dialing/picking up the phone, and ensure that you smile - this really will come across in your voice. Speak clearly and at a reasonable pace - one major mistake people make is talking too quickly. If you are asked a challenging question, don’t launch into a messy, long-winded answer - take time to think. It is also a good idea to ask the interviewer if you have answered their question fully, to ensure you are providing the right level of information - this is important since you won’t have the same non-verbal cues that show they are satisfied with your response as in a face-to-face interview. Reminding yourself of these differences between in-person and phone interviews is an essential part of preparing well.
This is the same as in any interview - address the interviewer as Miss/Mrs/Mr, unless they invite you to use their first name.
Whilst it’s good to be enthusiastic, don’t be over-familiar.
Multitasking is an absolute no-go. Whilst it may be tempting to check BBC News or Facebook while the interviewer is talking, this could cause you to lose focus and miss something crucial; the news and new statuses can wait. They must feel your presence, and that comes with undivided attention.
If possible, note down any interesting information that has come from the phone interview, or do this immediately after while it’s still fresh. You can bring up any points or questions that you have retrospectively in the next interview, if you are invited for one.
Ultimately, it is crucial to both be well-prepared and composed for a phone interview. If you have laid suitable groundwork beforehand and keep calm, you will put yourself in the best possible position to make it to the next stage.