If you're serious about your job search, you've probably got quite a few applications out there. It won't be long before a prospective employer wants to have a chat on the phone about your suitability for a role.
No need to panic - we've got you covered! Here are the 6 crucial things you need to know about phone interviews.
1. Why a telephone interview?
In short, it's easy. The employer may have dozens of applicants for the role, and inviting every candidate in for a face-to-face interview is time and cost intensive for all involved. Telephone interviews allow employers to screen candidates before taking them through to the next step in the application process.
2. Preparation is key
The good part about telephone interviews is that the interviewee can't see you—which means you can access all the visual aids you need to give impressive answers. You have the option to prepare lists of prompts, strengths and weaknesses, and important talking points to have in front of you.
Chief among these materials should be your CV and the job description. It's what they will have in front of them as well. Be cautious with everything else—you don't want to sound like you are reading off a script. Don't forget to write down any questions you have about the role.
Tip: Print out what you need and then condense it into bullet points to help you scan for the information required at a moment's notice.
3. Set the scene
This is simple, but essential: make sure you have a quiet place with good reception, where you will not be interrupted. If you have housemates who are likely to barge in with noisy invites to the pub, put a note on your door.
4. Dress to impress (on the phone)
Some say that you should dress for a phone interview as you would for a face-to-face interview. Being fully suited and booted is supposed to put you in a professional mind-set, making you more likely to come up with work-appropriate answers.
We say this sounds a little like pop-psychology. If you're more comfortable in joggers and a retro footy shirt, opt for that. Interviews are stressful enough without realising your suit could do with a dry clean halfway through an answer on your experience.
5. The two types of phone interviews
a) Informal chat:
Sometimes employers just want to have a little chat about the role and your experience, perhaps clarify or elaborate on a couple of points on your CV, and make sure you have a friendly and professional demeanour.
b) Pre-screening interview:
This is not an informal and jovial natter - this is business time. These interviews will be scripted and structured. There will be formal interview questions, and questions to test your knowledge of the company and the role.
Example: Questions we have been asked in interviews
Name five Strengths and five weaknesses: We're not saying we're perfect, but five is harder than you think.
What is your understanding of the role: Errrrr, can't really read the job description back to them—they probably wrote it. Maybe talk about how the role fits into the wider company?
What's been your proudest achievement to date: Do we sound like losers if we say it was the Humber Half Marathon or doing the Three Peaks? (N.B. The author may or may not have accomplished these impressive feats...)
6. Thank you notes
Sending an employer a short note thanking them for the chat is polite, personal, and may make you stand out from the crowd. Just make sure to keep it short and sincere - you don't want to sound sycophantic.
There you have it—phone interviews don't need to be stressful! They are simple, albeit slightly formal, conversations about a role you're interested in. Preparation is important even if the interview turns out to be more on the informal side—and you can always use your materials later to prepare for the in-person interview you are now sure to get!