How to prepare for your first telephone interview

So, you’ve applied for your dream job and made it through to the first stage: the telephone interview.  First of all, congratulations are in order; you’re on the right path… but the next few steps that you take are going to be crucial to securing your ideal role.

At Always INSYNC, our professional CV writers and careers experts, mentor enthusiastic go-getters such as yourself using techniques such as mock over-the-phone interviews, because the more you do something, the easier and more routine it will become.  By using methods such as these, we encourage our jobseekers through constructive feedback, in order to nurture their skills until they are at the top of their game.

Often used as part of the screening process, telephone interviews are an effective method employed by companies, enabling them to narrow the pool of candidates who will be invited to take part in face-to-face interviews.

You’re probably thinking – what could go wrong?  You can wear your PJ’s, you’ve got Google on tap and your notes to hand, this should be a doddle… well, it’s a little more complicated than that!

A first ‘phone impression’ can make the difference between appearing to be a confident and driven jobseeker, and one who perhaps isn’t going to take the role as seriously as they should.  As well as this, the way you communicate will be assessed, and in this we will direct you, so that you will be able to come across as both engaged and engaging, not to mention concise, whilst at the same time being able to take your time when answering questions, if you feel the need to do so.

Our team at Always INYSNC have put together our top telephone interview preparation tips to help you maximise your performance and project a positive image of yourself towards your prospective employer, thus increasing your chances of being asked to attend an in-person interview in order to land that ideal position.

Sound like a professional

This will maximise your chances of making a positive impression.  Avoid one of the most common mistakes made by many candidates: forgetting that when your CV is in circulation any call to your phone could be from a prospective employer.  As tempting as it may be, you need to avoid answering the phone when you’re out and about or otherwise distracted.  If an agency or recruiter cannot get hold of you to schedule the telephone interview, it is likely that they will leave you a message, so leave out the humorous voicemail greeting until you have secured the job.  Focus your efforts on returning calls promptly and be sure to have an idea of your availability.  Remember that first impressions are crucial and that the agency, recruiter or interviewer can only assess you by your voice – they cannot read your body language, see your smile or your gestures – so just you and your voice stand between you and your dream job!

Give the interviewer your full attention

So, you’ve applied for your dream job, and it’s fantastic news – you’ve been invited to do a telephone interview.  And the date and time are now set in stone.

In an ideal setting there should be no other person present while you’re talking with that prospective employer.  We understand from our own first-hand experiences in the past, the obstacles that you can face when raising kids or flat-sharing, but it’s very important that your prospective employers can see that you are capable of striking the optimum work-life balance.  So, arrange a babysitter or ask your flatmates to make themselves scarce for an hour or so.  If another call comes through during your interview then ignore it and highlight your ability to problem solve and foresee deterrents.

Where possible, request that the telephone interviewer contacts you on a land-line number, as poor signal quality on your mobile can and will occur precisely when you least want it to.  Also, be wary of using Skype or other VoIP services via your mobile phone, as numerous factors that are beyond your control can impact on the call quality, resulting in frequent interruptions – which can be annoying and frustrating not just for you but, to your possible detriment, may also be annoying and frustrating for your interviewer, too.

Dress for success

Carrying out an interview in your own environment can lead you into a false sense of security. Slouching on the sofa in your dressing gown and slippers is a big no-no!  The tone of your voice is just as important as what you’re saying when it comes to the impression you make during that telephone interview.

Therefore, we would recommend that you dress smartly, just as you would when attending a face-to-face interview.  Not only will this minimise the risk of you coming across as laid back or too informal, it will also provide you with an all-important confidence boost, which will be reflected in your voice.

Consider your immediate environment prior to taking the call, by preparing a clutter-free space in which to conduct your interview, as tripping over kids toys or misplaced furniture can literally knock you off balance and mess up your flow. Be sure to have a copy of the same CV that you submitted to hand, as well as a pen, pencil, calculator and notepad, should you need to take down any notes regarding the position.

Prepare just as diligently as you would for a face-to-face meeting

Planning – Prior to your meeting, you should write down any points that you may wish to put to your interviewer, as well as the questions that you would like to ask; this is where your notepad will come in handy. You see, your interviewer will be giving you key pieces of information about the role and the organisation, which will prepare you for when you make it through to the next stage of the selection process.

Research – It goes without saying that researching the company that you are interviewing for is key, and by research we don’t mean taking a quick look at the “About Us” page on the company website and emphasising that you know when the company was established – that’s too easy and the interviewer will see right through it.  Really push the boat out and show the interviewer that their company is your first choice and that you are genuinely interested in adding value to it. For example, check the organisation’s social media platforms and year-end reports.  If they have press releases on their website then these in particular can provide a rich vein of information.  Using these methods, you can find out some really interesting facts, such as: has the organisation recently entered into a new partnership, do they have new products in the pipe-line, have they been nominated for an award?  The list goes on.

If you need support in researching a company check out our How to research a company before an interview section. By researching the company thoroughly, you’ll be able to anticipate the types of questions that you might be asked.

Keep in mind, that by investing a couple of hours in undertaking this research before your first interview, you will be increasing your chances of ending up in that perfect job that you have always wanted, weeks or months before you would otherwise, if at all!

Self–awareness is key – On occasion the telephone interviewer may not have had much time to read your CV prior to the interview, so it is vital that you have a clear understanding of what you can bring to the role, and are able to articulate it both clearly and eloquently.  In some shape or form the interviewer will probably want to know:

•         About you and your work history

•         What interests you about the job

•         What skills you can bring to the position

•         What sort of situations bring out your best performance

•         How you handle difficult situations

If you are struggling to answer the questions above then you can book our interview prep consultancy course or join in on an interview prep workshop.

Communication is key

Your telephone interview will generally not last too long, however there may be a few awkward silences after you’ve answered a question.  Avoid filling those awkward pauses just for the sake of it, it isn’t necessary.  Instead, we’d recommend you wait patiently for the next question, as it is very likely that the telephone interviewer is making notes regarding your answers.  Also, try to answer interview questions in full sentences rather than by simply answering with “yes” or “no” responses, which can make you sound distracted or disinterested.  The better prepared you are the less likely it is that you will introduce “um’s” and “ah’s” or words such as “like” into your conversation too frequently, in order to fill in the gaps and buy yourself time as you scramble to think of your answers.  Though we all use them from time to time, these hesitations, known as disfluencies, can make your sound less credible, less certain and less confident in and of yourself.

Be confident to clarify anything that you haven’t understood, and to reconfirm when you can expect to hear back from them, and most of all, stay positive! Regardless of how you feel that the interview has gone, remember to end it on a high note and to thank the interviewer for his or her time.

Give us a call at Always INSYNC for a personal assessment of your first telephone interview and ensure you’re making the best phone impression.

Good luck!

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