Telephone interview tips from a seasoned telephone interviewer

So you’ve got yourself a telephone interview, congratulations! You’ve done well to get this far, but now you need a bit of guidance so that you can blow away the competition. Well you’ve come to the right place.

The first thing to ask yourself is why would a company choose a telephone interview? They may have a huge volume of response and want to whittle this down quickly without the company or the applicants incurring too many costs. It may be a question of timing, they want to move through the process quickly and to give all suitable applicants a chance to expand on their written applications. It could be down to availability of the interviewer or the location of the applicants themselves.  Whatever the reason, this is the first stage of your interview process so you should prepare as you would for a face to face interview (without sending your best suit to the dry cleaners).

Clever applicants among you may realise that being on the end of the phone (and not in full sight of the interviewer) gives you an advantage. You can wallpaper your chosen location with post it notes full of witty quips and snippets of information to pepper your sparkling conversation with the interviewer. Result! Or is it? I’ve conducted thousands of telephone interviews and it is so obvious when someone is doing this. I can hear them reading from their script confidently, convinced that they are demonstrating exactly why I should choose them for my shortlist. Unfortunately though, what I’m usually thinking is “why isn’t this applicant just answering the question I’ve asked rather than trying to shoe horn in their pre-rehearsed answer?” Prompts are good, scripts are not!

A common piece of feedback that I receive from candidates following a telephone interview is that the interviewee didn’t know what the interviewer wanted them to say. I’m going to let you in to a secret here. We don’t want you to say anything special. We aren’t trying to catch you out. What we really want, is for you to answer our question. Honestly. That’s it! We want to know that you have one of the most important skills necessary in any job. The art of conversation. We want to converse with you.

So how do you prepare for a conversation with a potential employer? You need to ask yourself the questions that you are likely to be asked. Why do you want this job? The answer to that question might be on the company website but realistically, it comes from you. You need to know what you are applying for (the job advert or job description), and who you will be working for. You need to be curious about what the company does, what their values are, where they are heading and what they are trying to achieve as a business. The company website, Google, LinkedIn and the business press are your friend in this respect. Once you’ve worked out what their values are, you can think about how your values align with theirs, and how your skills can help them achieve their goals. And you don’t need to spend hours learning the “about us” section of the company website word for word – I suspect your interviewer already knows what it says.

And if after doing some research you don’t know the answer to the question “why do you want this job?” you probably don’t really want it…

For more tips on interviews check out our advice and resources page.

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