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Phone Interviews - 7 Foolproof Tips

Posted by Ethan Bresnett

More and more companies are beginning to use phone interviews as the first stage of their interview process, and you will most likely have a phone interview at some point during your job search. They are a great tool for saving time but it can be very difficult to read body language and bounce off the interviewer - particularly in comparison to a face-to-face interview. With phone interviews around for the foreseeable future, it is wise to familiarise yourself with the best practices for succeeding in this kind of interview!

They can seem daunting, but in reality, phone interviews give you a great opportunity to sell yourself before even meeting the employer. Here at Pro-Group, our specialist recruiters have put together 7 key points to remember when it comes to preparing and carrying out a phone interview, and while some of these points may seem obvious, it’s surprising as to how often a client or candidate’s feedback has mentioned an unfortunate misstep.

1. Location

Avoiding anywhere noisy may sound obvious but if you’re taking a call at lunchtime and the only place to do it is in a coffee shop at peak time, you may not have the interviewer’s full attention and vice versa. Noisy pets and family members are also worth taking into consideration. Consider a meeting room, a quiet room at home or even a (parked) car. Also, remember to check your signal - avoid talking in locations that are particularly bad for phone reception. If a landline isn’t available, consider phoning a friend or a member of your family beforehand, just to ensure the signal is at its strongest. 

2. Make sure you are ready early and leave yourself enough time

You may be expecting a call at 3pm so be ready at least 10 minutes beforehand. With the possibility of both parties’ timepieces being slightly out of sync, you could easily miss that initial phone call and, while hitting redial takes no effort at all, you run the risk of ruining that first impression.

Make sure to have leeway the other side as well, and leave plenty of time should the conversation flow and take longer than expected. Having the opportunity to further affirm your interest and leave a deeper impression on the interviewer, can only be a positive. Those extra few minutes could make all the difference, showcasing your ability to build rapport. However, ensure you don’t stray towards filling the conversation, just to keep the interviewer on the phone.

3. Avoid cutting the interviewer off

We all have a tendency to get over-excited, and talking over one another happens more frequently on the phone (we all do this when we talk to friends and family, don’t we?). Be aware that this behaviour over the phone could potentially come across as much more abrupt and aggressive, particularly as the interviewer will be unable to read your body language. To avoid this, have a quick pause to make sure you are not interrupting before you begin to answer.

4. Ask questions and prepare

An interviewer will always ask if you have any more questions; ensure you have a few key questions to hand as opposed to ending the conversation with a “no”. These could be questions about the company's work-life balance, opportunities for progression or simply about the interviewer's experience at the company. This is your chance to show how interested you are if you like what you have heard so far, otherwise, it’s quite an anticlimax for the interviewer who has taken time out of their diary to discuss the role with you. 

Also, make sure you take the time to familiarise yourself with the company and the role you are applying for. With only your voice to focus on, a seasoned interviewer is able to easily spot when they don't have your full attention, so prepare as much as you possibly can to ensure you are able to engage with the interviewer.

5. Don't be afraid to use notes

People sometimes feel they can't use notes for a phone interview, almost as though they're 'cheating'! However, this isn't the case at all, feel free to jot down key points and things to remember to have in front of you. This could be a summary of your experience and dates, a list of your strengths and weaknesses, the questions you have prepared to ask the interviewer or even points you want to try and weave into the conversation to sell yourself. Even better, have a notepad ready to jot down notes during the phone interview to refer back to - these could come in handy in the next interview stage.

6. Don't forget it's still an interview

Make sure you take a phone interview just as seriously as a face-to-face interview! It may not always seem it as a phone call can seem less pressured than a formal interview, however, there is no doubt that an interviewer will form a lasting impression of you during the short time you spend on the phone. Speak clearly and confidently, demonstrate why you are a strong candidate for the role, and let your personality come through.

7. Practice

As obvious as some of these points may seem, sit down and work with your recruiter in a mock interview scenario. Having to spend a lot of time on the phone interviewing people, we can help you avoid pitfalls such as “dead air”, construct concise yet informative answers and ensure you are getting as much out of the conversation as an interviewer would expect to.

For more information on this article and to find out more about how Ethan can help with your recruitment needs, contact him on 020 7269 6362 or ethan.bresnett@pro-recruitment.co.uk.

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