The Best Way to Approach a Telephone Interview: Follow These Tips to Get Ahead

by Matt Kirkman

Phone Interview Tips

Occasionally, when your application for a job has been successful, you might be asked to take part in a telephone interview. Many organizations use telephone interviews as part of their recruitment process, and while it may seem easier and less stressful than a face to face meeting, you need to remember that it's still an interview. In fact, because you may only have a few minutes to convince a potential employer that you should be considered for the position, performing well at this stage could be critical to your interview success.

Why Do Companies Use Telephone Interviews?

Telephone interviews are a useful tool for recruiters, and they are normally used for two reasons. Firstly, if the employer has a large number of candidates that they wish to consider, telephone interviews are a much more effective way to do this. The recruiter is able to screen more candidates this way, making sure that only the most appropriate ones are invited to a face to face meeting. Secondly, if communicating on the phone is going to be a large part of the role you've applied for, it makes sense for the employer to make use of this type of interview to test your ability in this area.

What Are Companies Looking for?

When you appreciate why companies use telephone interviews as part of their recruitment process, it makes it easier to understand what they will be looking for during your conversation. If the role you're being interviewed for involves having conversations with clients over the phone, the recruiter will be looking for individuals that have confident and professional telephone manners. But if the recruiter is using telephone interviews as a mass screening tool, you need to make sure that you're able to explain the skills and experience you have that make you one of the more suitable candidates, and worth meeting face to face.

Telephone Interview Dos and Don'ts

If you've applied for a role and been asked to take part in a telephone interview, there are three things you should always bear in mind:

Prepare - Because this is just a telephone interview, you might think that there isn't much you need to do in the way of preparation. It's true that the questions aren't likely to be as in-depth as they would be in a formal interview situation, but you still need to be ready. Make some notes about your career highlights and any experience which is relevant to the role to make sure you have all the information you need to impress the interviewer. Have a copy of your resume and/or application handy as well, in case there are any particular aspects they want to discuss in detail. You should also do some research on the organization itself, as they are sure to ask you why you want to work for the company.

Take it seriously - Too many candidates fail to take telephone interviews seriously enough, and these are usually the individuals that don't get invited to the next stage. They may seem like an informal precursor to a face to face meeting, but they are every bit as important. Over the phone, an interviewer is likely to make a decision about whether or not to progress your application fairly quickly, so it's essential that your call goes well and you provide them with the kind of information they want to hear. It's often suggested that wearing the appropriate business attire for a telephone interview helps to make you sound more confident, as does standing up while you are on the phone.

'Close' your interviewer - Telephone interviews can be quite short, particularly if they are primarily used as a way to screen a large number of applicants. If your conversation has gone well, the interviewer may take the opportunity to arrange the next stage of the process while they have you on the phone. However, just because they don't doesn't mean you've been unsuccessful; which is why it's always a good idea to 'close' your interviewer at the end of the call. Closing is simply asking whether or not you are going to be put forward to the next stage of the process. Some interviewers even expect to be closed, particularly if the role is in sales, and see it as one of the things they will be looking for in order to make a decision about you as a candidate.

Telephone interviews can be less stressful than face to face meetings, but they're still an important part of the selection process. As well as remembering the points above, you also need to try and avoid:

  • Arranging your telephone interview for a time when it will be difficult to talk.
  • Being too informal or using colloquial language.
  • Being interrupted during your conversation.
  • Using a cell phone that might run out of battery or get cut off.

A good telephone interview is one where you sound confident and professional and are able to provide the recruiter with the most relevant information about your experience. The key to achieving both of these is preparation and practice. Make sure you understand exactly what you have to offer your potential employer and, if you aren't used to having business conversations on the phone, practice with a friend or family member beforehand. This way, you're more likely to sound like the candidate the interviewer is keen to invite to the next stage.


If you want to read more on this topic, here are additional resources on how to prepare for a phone interview:

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