Today, it is common practice for employers to carry out telephone and webcam interviews with prospective candidates. This stage of the recruitment process is usually used to single out the best talent amongst the applications that companies receive, to ensure that candidates are appropriate for the role before conducting interviews in person. So, how can you guarantee that you leave the best impression? Below are our top tips to help you make the most of your interview time, in order to prove that you’re a candidate worthy of making it through to the next step.
Because a telephone interview may seem a little less formal than a face-to-face interview, it wouldn’t be uncommon for candidates to assume that they don’t require the same amount of preparation. However, your performance at this stage is going to determine whether the hiring manager chooses to progress with your application or not – so taking the time to do these simple things will help you to feel as confident as possible and, hopefully, prevent you from getting unnecessarily flustered.
Confirm with your recruiter how long the interview will take: by doing this, you can clear your diary for the appropriate amount of time and be certain that you won’t have to rush or feel hurried throughout the conversation. Leave an extra hour available either side of the interview so that you have time to get organised and settle your nerves before the interview begins. You’ll also have some space for the interview to run over.
- Check your surroundings: decide on the most appropriate place to carry out the call. Chose somewhere quiet, where you won’t get distracted or interrupted. For webcam calls, check that the lighting is good and that the background is not cluttered or disruptive. Do a test call to ensure that the line is clear, and the internet connection is strong enough. Is your microphone at the correct level? Can you hear, and be heard clearly?
- Be organised: Confirm with your interviewer who will be calling who. If possible, have their number saved to your phone and know their name. The recruiter is probably going to have a copy of your CV in front of them. You will know your resume and experience better than anyone, but having a copy to hand could be extremely beneficial as a reference point if you are put on the spot. Also, have a pen to hand to make any notes or to jot down questions for the end of the interview. A glass of water could also save the day, should you get dry mouth from doing a lot of talking.
- Research: Know the job description well, remember why you applied and how you can demonstrate that your experience, knowledge, skills, and personality make you a great fit for the role. Research the company, you will, at least, need to be ready to justify why you want to be a part of it! Read up on some common interview questions so that answering them becomes second nature. Keep in mind that your interviewer will be asking other candidates these questions – don’t have generic and predictable answers, think of something individual to you. See our guidance on common interview questions
During the interview
The best practices to follow during your interview will very likely be a matter of common sense to you by now. Nevertheless, it’s useful to refresh your mind of these handy guidelines, since our common sense can often evade us when we’re under pressure. You also may not feel very comfortable when talking about yourself, in which case, these tips should provide a handy resource for you to draw on.
- Answer the phone professionally: You should be waiting for the call, so pick up within 2 or 3 rings. Speak clearly and introduce yourself. Remain professional as you relax into the call, if you can’t see your interviewer it could be difficult to tell when they’re finished talking – leave a short pause before speaking so that you don’t interrupt or talk over them. Be wary of speaking too quickly if you are nervous.
- Be enthusiastic: many recruiters will value enthusiasm just as highly as some skills and experience. It’s infectious, so don’t be afraid of displaying your passion. This will help give you the edge over your more reserved competition. Find as many opportunities to show positivity as you can and adopt positive body language. When any negativity comes out, always support it with a positive comment. If you’re speaking over the phone, bear in mind that the employer cannot see you and be sure that you’re using the best tone, smiling will give your speech a positive intonation.
- Be honest: recruiters want to get to know the person behind the resume. Portray your experience and achievements in a way that feels true to you. Don’t forget that the interview is also an opportunity to work out if the organisation is a good fit for you and if it is an environment in which you can thrive, so it is imperative that you be yourself.
- Listen carefully: be attentive and pay full attention to what the employer is saying. This will also help you to build a good rapport with your interviewer if you can refer back to something that they have said. Ask for clarification if you need it, rather than attempting to second guess what the person is saying. This will mean that you can communicate with as much clarity as possible when you’re responding.
- Build rapport: start your conversation with some small talk as a way of warming up to the more serious conversation. Something, as simple as asking how their day has been so far, will instantly make the tone of the call more friendly and break the ice.
- Take notes: If you’re asked multiple questions, write them down. This tactic is great for helping you to address all questions concisely, without waffling, and provides ques for you to follow if you lose your trail of thought. You can then also make a quick note of anything that you would like to revisit when you have some time at the end of the interview. Do be cautious of taking too many notes if it will prevent you from engaging fully in the interview.
Ending the Interview
You may be unconsciously hasty to finish the call when you realise that it is drawing to its end. Take your time and always conclude the interview as you would in person, you can still leave a strong lasting impression on a hiring manager without being face-to-face. Remember these things…
- Is there anything you need to revisit? Take this opportunity to return to anything that you feel uncertain about. Maybe you feel that you haven’t expressed yourself properly at some point throughout the conversation, you could say ‘I don’t feel that I answered your question about X well and I would like to revisit my answer’.
- Ask questions: being inquisitive will show that you have a genuine interest in the role and that you are making the most advantage out of your conversation. Have some go-to questions in mind just in case your head goes blank. If you need some inspiration, see our suggestions.
- Remember your manners: state that you have enjoyed having the opportunity to learn more about the opportunity and organisation and thank the interviewer for their time. This is a great chance to reiterate your interest. If it hasn’t already been outlined, ask your interviewer what the next stage of the recruitment process is.
- Make note of their questions afterward: do this as soon as you hang-up the call, while you can remember as much as possible. Looking back through these notes could be an invaluable resource for the next interview, the information could indicate what other questions they might ask and their motives for hiring.
With this information to hand, you should hopefully be feeling ready to confidently tackle your telephone interview. The key is to prepare as you would for a regular interview, stay professional, be yourself, and remember to breathe! Good luck from Hamlyn Williams.