Tips to survive any telephone job interview

While searching for a job, it is very important to be ready for a telephone job interview as it is one of the most important steps towards getting an invitation to do an in-person interview. Phone interviews are normally called phone screens as you are doing it over the phone, making you a screening candidate. The interviews normally last 20-30 minutes max, therefore the pressure is really on as you don’t have much time to prove to the employer that you are suitable for the job. There is an estimation that three out of six candidates who do a phone interview get invited for the next round of interviews. Most companies like to start off their interview process through a phone interview, in which they will determine whether you are the perfect fit for the job and the company. But do not worry, normally they do not call you out of the blue and they will make sure to contact you beforehand either by phone or email.

Telephone interviews are always nerve-racking as you have a limited amount of time to show yourself off to your employer and you want to be as prepared as possible. We got you covered because by the end of this article you will feel more confident and relaxed. So grab a pen, paper, and coffee and make some notes on how to achieve that in-person interview.
 

Telephone interview tips

Is this your first phone interview and you are worried sick about what will happen during the interview? Here are some telephone interview tips to get you to be less anxious.

Step one: Research the Company

If you already have a set date for your telephone interview, make sure to review the job description and do some further research on the company. Jot down some notes and highlight the most important keywords, so that way once you are on the phone doing your interview, you can casually name the keywords – for example, the company’s goals, or the skills that are required with the job – which shows the employer that you are serious about this job.

Step 2: Preparation

A phone interview is the same as if you were going to an in-person interview. Therefore, a typical question that is popular is ¨what are your weaknesses and strengths¨. In this case, gather a list of your strengths and weaknesses, and also have a list of common phone interview questions, and if it makes you feel more comfortable, write down your answers. Plus, you should always have a set of questions that you can ask the employer once their questions are done.

Step 3: Show them you are the perfect candidate

Make sure to show the employer that you are the best fit for this position. You can do this by matching your qualifications with the job description so the employer can see that you are perfect for the job. Also, make sure you go through your CV and try to remember the dates and what you had to do for each of your previous jobs – maybe even specify a project, event, or task in which you succeeded very well in and that applies closely to what you are doing for this job.

Step 4: Have all your notes near you

Make sure you have everything with you: your notes which include the job description, the main goals of the company and the job, your CV, and your notes of all the possible interview questions they can ask you. An additional touch is to have a pen and paper next to you just in case throughout the interview you think of any additional questions to ask the interviewer.

Step 5: Practicing

Practice, practice, practice. This is super important when it comes to a phone interview. Therefore, try to have one of your friends or family members help you practice by calling you and asking you questions. This will show you if it’s easy for them to hear you, if you are not enunciating properly or if you are speaking way too fast or too slowly. Maybe even record this trial interview to see if you can hear yourself clearly. With a recording, it will help you detect if you say way too many “ums¨” or you say a lot of “likes”, or even if you go off-topic accidentally without knowing which you can then try to avoid these things. However, if you don’t have someone that can help you, just try to practice some potential interview questions that they might ask so that you are not going into the phone interview completely unprepared. This will also help you sound more natural when speaking as you won’t have long pauses if you are caught off guard.

Step 6: Prepare for the call

Before the interview, make sure you write down on your calendar the date, time, and who you will be speaking to. Once the call is confirmed, make sure you are not busy during that time or in a noisy environment. Try to isolate yourself and be somewhere comfortable but quiet, where people won’t disturb you. Furthermore, because it is a phone interview, make sure your phone is fully charged. Try to be either comfortable like on a sofa or even standing up as it can help you pretend you were having a face-to-face conversation and you will be more aware of your tone and attitude during the call.

Step 7: Telephone interview protocol

Make sure you answer the phone with a positive and energetic tone. Make sure to let the interviewer know that you are the one they will be talking to. Another point would be to get prepared for some small talk, the interviewer might ask you about your day or the weather, for example. Try to go along with the conversation and wait for the interviewer to guide the interview. Make sure you give your full attention to the interviewer, never interrupt when the interviewer is speaking, and make sure you are answering all of the questions. If you have anything to comment on or ask, write it down on your piece of paper and ask after the interview is over. For example, “When speaking about the job requirements, you mentioned… What do you mean by this?” Lastly, do not rush the interview, as it is better to take your time to answer the questions rather than answering them carelessly and regretting it afterwards just because you think that the interviewer wants quick responses – this is never the case.

Step 8: The dos

There is a list of things to do in a telephone job interview which are the following:

  • Use appropriate prefixes: when answering the phone, make sure to greet the interviewer by saying “Good evening Mr.__ or Ms.__.”
  • Sound energetic: try to sound happy and energetic, by doing this thing as if the interviewer was in front of you or even smile, that will always help the tone of your voice sound positive.
  • Focus and be attentive: make sure you are focused on what the interviewer is asking you and ask for clarifications if you don’t understand. Always listen to what the interviewer is saying.
  • Answering: give short and straight to the point answers, make sure you do not go off-topic to the point where you don’t end up answering the question asked.
  • Ask questions: try to ask questions or ask for further details about the job after the interview.
  • Ending the call: make sure when ending the call to express your gratitude for the opportunity, for example, “Thank you for your time and it was lovely speaking to you. I hope we can meet soon in person.”

 

Step 9: The don’ts

Wondering what to avoid during a telephone job interview? Here is a list of what not to do:

  • Avoid food and drinks: Do not eat, chew gum or drink hot beverages, just have a cup of water on the side in case you get thirsty. Remember, chewing anything or drinking hot beverages where you slurp and make a lot of sounds will be very unappealing to the interviewer who has to listen to you chewing on the other end of the phone.
  • Avoid loud places: make sure you do not have a television on in the background or a stereo playing as it won’t only disturb the interview but it might also distract you.
  • Do not interrupt: make sure you wait until the interviewer is fully done speaking. If you interrupt, you will come across as rude and impatient.
  • Do not be informal: make sure to be as polite as possible and use formal language. This will show the interviewer you respect them and you are not treating this interview as if you were hanging out with a friend.

 

Step 10: After the interview

As the interview ends, make sure to thank the interviewer for their time and patience. Once the interview is over you can email the interviewer thanking them again but also expressing how enthusiastic you are about the position.
If you follow these telephone interview tips, there will be a high chance of getting that face-to-face interview, which means you are one step closer to getting the job.
 

10 common telephone interview questions

Telephone interview questions do not differ from in-person interview questions. But here are some common interview questions that can help you mentally prepare for what questions will be thrown at you during the telephone interview.

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses? This is a very common question that you will get in every interview. When answering this question try to give at least three examples of some strengths and weaknesses, avoid saying ¨I don’t have any weaknesses because I am perfect”, which will not look good for you. Also, provide weaknesses that won’t end up getting you rejected for the job. Try stating weaknesses that can be improved on and follow it up by saying ¨I am working on these weaknesses by..¨. In regards to strengths, try to give three strengths that relate to the job you are applying for and show the interviewer how the company can benefit through your strengths.
  2. Tell me about yourself. This does not mean to ramble on about your favourite television show or sports. When asked this, make sure to answer it in relation to your resume.
  3. Why did you leave your last job? Do not talk down about your last job. You can answer something like ¨ It gave me all the knowledge I have gained at this point but now I am looking for something that will challenge me more.¨ Give a very neutral but short answer.
  4. Why did you choose this company and job? This is your opportunity to compliment the company and show your enthusiasm about this job. Talk about the atmosphere, the level of contentment of the employees and so on.
  5. Why should we hire you? This is the best chance to talk highly about yourself so give some examples and points of your qualities and work ethic.
  6. What responsibilities do you possess with your current or previous job? Talk about the responsibilities you have with your current or last job that would be similar to the job you are applying for.
  7. What would you say are your best management skills? Talk about your leadership skills, organizational skills, and your ability to achieve a set goal. Make sure to show off your management skills and give some specific examples from your current position and how it helped the company.
  8. What examples can you give us that you are proud of? Here you can list a few examples of projects, events, and tasks that you were given. Show your process and how you made these tasks a success.
  9. What do you expect from this job? Show how this job can help you in your future career or how it will improve your skills and you as a person in a work environment.
  10. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? You can say something like ¨hopefully getting promoted here¨, ¨Maybe being on the other side of the table¨ or even saying ¨Perhaps leading my own department or division¨. Try to include the company and show them that you are here for the long run.

 
Now that you see what potential telephone interview questions they might ask, you can start thinking about what you will answer with. Try to make bullet points and not make an entire script as it would be noticeable to the person on the other end of the conversation that you are reading off a paper.
 

5 good questions to ask in a phone interview

It always looks good if you have some questions to ask the interviewer when finalizing the phone interview. These are some suggested phone interview questions:

  1. What does success look like for this role?
  2. What would the schedule look like for someone with this role?
  3. Is the work environment normally independent work or teamwork?
  4. What benefits come with the job? Transport, holidays, company-paid meals, etc.
  5. What are the following steps after this interview?

 
Hopefully, these telephone job interview tips helped you be more relaxed and prepared for the interview. If you follow these steps, it will most likely guarantee you a spot in being one of the three out of six people who get called in for an in-person interview.

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FAQ

  • What should I wear to a phone interview?
    Because it is a screening interview and the person obviously cannot see you, you can wear whatever you want, whether it is comfy, casual, or formal. However, I do suggest that if you want to get yourself into the interview mentality, then maybe dress up a little, something like taking a shower, putting on a shirt, just to get you into that ¨business vibe¨.
  • How do I maintain an enthusiastic tone throughout the telephone interview?
    To maintain an enthusiastic tone, try to smile throughout the entire interview because your tone always sounds more positive when you are smiling. Also, drink water to clear your throat, treat this as if the interviewer was in front of you.
  • What to do if the interviewer calls unexpectedly?
    Sometimes the interviewer will call out of the blue. If this happens to you do not panic, just tell them if it's fine if you can call them back later in the day as you are currently busy. Or even reschedule the interview for another day.