How to Ace a Phone Interview

13 November 2014

 Phone interviews are a common part of the recruitment process; many potential employers use telephone interviews as a way to screen candidates in order to narrow down the pool of applicants who will be invited in for a formal, face-to-face, interview. With this in mind, holding a successful phone interview is key to landing a job – if you are unable to articulate your skills, and come across well, at this stage it’s more than likely that your application won’t be taken forward. Whilst phone interviews lack the formality of a face-to-face interview - you don’t have to dress formally, there’s no travel involved and you’re in a familiar environment – it is still vital that you prepare for it just as thoroughly as you would a normal interview.

Preparation:

Being prepared for a phone interview is imperative as, believe it or not, there are many problems that come with an interview conducted over the telephone – and you need to foresee these issues and prepare accordingly:

Use a landline

Technology may have come a long way, but mobile phones still suffer from bad signal – it’s a fact of life. A call cutting out half way through due to back signal, or lack of battery, looks unprofessional and will interrupt the flow of the interview, and hamper the rapport you have built with the person on the other end of the phone considerably. In order to avoid this issue use a landline phone wherever possible.  Another top tip to minimise phone mishaps is to turn off the call waiting mechanism on your landline – this way you will eliminate the beeping sound that is issued when there is an incoming call, and consequently avoid you and your interviewer becoming annoyed and distracted.

Eliminate all distractions

Distractions can make or break a telephone interview, a potential employer will expect the same levels of focus and attention as they would in a face-to-face meeting – and therefore you should eliminate all distractions that could interfere with your levels of attention. Try and create a calm and quiet environment, which resembles that of a formal meeting, this will put your in the correct mindset. Politely explain to friends, family and housemates that you will be having a phone interview at said time and date and ask them to give you some privacy (i.e. do not come bursting into the room you will be taking the phone call), keep the noise down, and if possible vacate the premises altogether for an hour or so. Also ensure that other distractions such as mobile phones, radio stations and television sets are all switched off for the duration of the interview; it’s all too easy to become distracted by a TV feature or buzzing phone, which could lead to you missing an important piece of information or interview question.

Lay your research out in front of you

An interviewer will expect you to answer the same level of questions as you would at a face-to-face interview, meaning you should prepare in exactly the same way: go over your CV so you are clear exactly what skills you have highlighted, do your research on the role you are applying for, and brush up on your sector knowledge and the history and work of the organisation. Telephone interviews do have their advantages over formal meetings though – there is no employer to stop you using a little extra help to answer your questions. It will pay to have a copy of your latest CV and the application you sent to the organisation in front of you – this will minimise awkward silences while you try and remember what you actually wrote. Likewise, have all your other research printed out and within view to ensure the interview runs smoothly, and you give yourself the best chance you can of impressing your potential employer. It’s an idea to have a pen and paper handy so you can jot down any noteworthy information or questions posed, this could come in very handy in any future interviews with the company.

Have a glass of water handy

It’s a minor point, but no one wants to sound like Kermit the frog halfway through their interview. You’ll be talking a lot so make sure you have a glass of water handy to avoid and awkward croaks, and pacify any coughing fits that may occur.  

During the Interview

Remember your interview/ telephone etiquette

During your phone interview it’s important you sound as professional as you would if you were meeting your interviewer face-to-face.  When you answer the phone state your full name, which is featured on your CV, so the interviewer knows they have reached the right person.  Similarly, use your interviewers formal title (Miss/Ms/Mrs/ Mr followed by their surname) throughout the interview unless they ask you to do otherwise. It is also common courtesy to not interrupt your interviewer, wait until it is explicit that they have finished what they want to say before you respond. If you want to react to something that the interviewer has raised make a note of it so you can come back to it later.  Finally, chewing gum or eating during your telephone interview should be seen as strictly off limits, you wouldn’t do this in a face-to-face meeting so it is not acceptable in a phone interview.

Smile and adopt the proper body language

It may sound obscene to focus on physical aspects of your behaviour during a phone interview, they can’t see you after all, but your body language will change the tone of your voice. Smiling will project a positive attitude, which is what every potential employer wants to hear. Again, behaving life you’re in a standard interview will influence your behaviour and put you in the appropriate mindset. Furthermore adopting general rules of formal body language such as no fidgeting and eye contact (okay you have no one to make contact with, but the rule of focus still applies) will allow you to really engage with your interviewer.

After the Interview

Send a thank you note

At the end of the interview be sure to thank them for their time, and ask what the next step will be – this way you have a rough idea of when you should theoretically hear back from them. If you don’t already have their email address ask for it and send a follow up note. Send this note immediately after you have finished your interview while it’s fresh in your mind; it’s great to send a tangible note as it is more formal than a formal thank, and is shareable so your politeness can be flagged up to other members of staff. If you discussed anything in particular that the interviewer found particularly interesting – say an article you referenced, or any blogs/ articles you have written – it is worth attaching them to you email as helps secure your positive relationship with the interviewer, and demonstrates you were playing real attention to them.

Good luck!