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Getting past a telephone interview is a skill of its very own. And it is only when we are seeking a job that the skills of the phone interview are called upon. Let’s try and demystify what is trying to be achieved by the person conducting the phone interview and some hints to help you succeed.

Phone interviews are a way for employers to initially screen candidates for a position. The phone interviewer is trying to gauge your enthusiasm about the role they are advertising, so it is important that you are free to talk and are able to answer their questions openly and freely.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to talk let the interviewer know; they would rather delay the interview and get the best information from you, rather than muffled answers and responses that may come across as disinterest in the role.

As well as gauging your enthusiasm for the role the interviewer will also be trying to further establish your suitability for the role and the company. They will ask such things as clarifying items from your resume; your salary expectations; and when you will be available to start etc. Answer these questions accurately and truthfully. There is no point agreeing to a salary or start date you cannot make, or the employer cannot afford. It is better for everyone to know where they stand.

Key items and Skills for a successful Telephone Interview:

  • Keep a smile in your voice
  • Make Sure you are free to talk
  • Answer as honestly and directly as you can
  • Ask questions to show your interest in the role
  • Thank the interviewer for their time
  • Take notes so you remember the conversation

Your selling tools for you in the phone interview are your voice and the responses you supply. Make sure you are listening to the questions asked so you can respond appropriately. You don’t have the normal non-verbal cues to help you as you would in a face to face meeting so try and be clear and concise in your answers. Use formal language but be friendly.

If the phone interview has been scheduled in advance, make sure you are prepared by having researched the company beforehand and have read through the selection criteria and position description (if there is one) thoroughly. Match your skills and qualifications to the selection criteria so that you are confident you can explain why you are the person they are looking for. If you want some more pointers you can read about the importance of selection criteria. Also have a quick review of your own resume. The interviewer may want clarification of something and it helps if the last time you looked at your resume wasn’t when you updated it at the beginning of your job search.

Prepare you answers for the most commonly asked questions, such as:

  • Why did you / are you looking to leave your current job?
  • What are you looking for in your next job?
  • Why do you want the job?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you want from the role personally? (career advancement, growth, challenge etc)
  • What interests you most about the job?
  • What do you think you can bring to the job?

Just like in a face-to-face interview, you should be given the opportunity to ask questions of your own. This is a perfect opportunity to get clarification on any part of the role you are unsure of. You can ask about the job, team structure or if there’s any KPI’s to the position Asking questions lets the interviewer know you are taking the process seriously and are interested. If the interviewer doesn’t offer what the process will next entail (such as when you will hear about a face-to-face interview) then feel free to ask this yourself.

Like all interviews, role plays can help you improve, so practice with a friend or family member to increase your skill. Stage one of the interview processes is now complete and hopefully you will move to stage two at the end or shortly after the call. Remember that the phone interview offers the interviewer the opportunity to assess you, as well as giving you an opportunity to review the role and company you applied to.


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