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Posted by David Brown, CEO Hays US, on Tuesday, Jun 12, 2018
While an integral part of many companies’ hiring process, telephone interviews are often seen as less formal because they’re not face-to-face. This does not mean you should be less professional while conducting one. On the contrary, your performance in a telephone interview is often directly linked to whether you’ll get an in-person interview. Or even if you’ll be offered the job.
Telephone interviews can feel awkward. You don’t get a chance to read body language, and it can be difficult to adjust your approach mid-stream when you’ve only got an interviewer’s voice to go by. But if you prepare properly, you can use a phone interview to build rapport with the hiring manager early on.
Before the interview
Prepare as for a face-to-face interview
A telephone interview may not feel like an in-person interview, but you have to do the same amount of prep for it. Candidates who treat phone interviews like an informal chat, or who do no prep at all, don’t fare well as a result – and don’t tend to progress to the next stage of hiring.
• Confirm with your recruiter the expected length of the interview, and clear your schedule for an hour on either side of the interview so you’re not pressed for time
• Research your employer and your hiring manager beforehand
• Read the job posting and requirements thoroughly to identify what skills and experience you can bring to the role
• Practice answering common interview questions
• Prepare questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the call
Perfect your verbal communication
Verbal communication is key in a telephone interview. An interviewer can’t read your body language or facial expressions, so you need to make sure that you’re getting everything across through your voice alone.
To help eliminate verbal tics or interjections (“um,” “uh,” “like,” and others), run through a practice interview with a friend. You can also record yourself on the phone. This will also help you to hear when you’re speaking too quickly, interrupting, covering your mouth, or otherwise unclear.
On the day of the interview
Do tongue twisters, vocal exercises, and drink plenty of water before getting on the phone. Especially if the interview is first thing in the morning, or you sound hoarse.
Get into a positive mind-set
Do breathing exercises in the run-up to the interview to calm your nerves. Give yourself a pep talk if wanted – remind yourself of all your achievements to date. I’d also recommend visualizing positive outcomes, such as being offered the job, to remind you of your end goal. As much as you can, motivate yourself to give your best performance during the call.
Check that you have phone signal, full battery, and have the hiring manager and recruiters’ names and numbers saved on your phone. Make sure that you’re clear on who is calling who, and when. Be ready for the call at least 15 minutes before, and ensure you’re in a quiet space to talk. If you’re at work, step outside the office. If you’re at home, switch off the TV and radio, and let anyone else in the house know that you can’t be interrupted for the next hour or so. Remember to also turn off your personal phone to avoid the chances of it ringing during the interview.
During the interview
Answer the phone in a professional manner
Pick up within two to three rings, and answer professionally. Ideally: “Hello, [your name] speaking.” Be polite, and maintain that tone throughout the call.
Have all the information you need to hand
In case you get stuck, keep the following in front of you: your resume, bullet points of your key skills and achievements, and headline information about the company you’re interviewing with. Don’t read what you have to hand word for word – use it to inform your answers or provide prompts for things you can’t recall. When using your cheat sheets, don’t shuffle the paper too loudly.
Adjust your body language
Your interviewer may not be able to see you, but your body language is still important. How you carry your body informs how you speak. Don’t be rigid, but don’t be too relaxed, either – both of these states make it hard to be professional over the phone. Sit up straight or stand when answering questions to improve how well you project your voice. You can also smile and gesticulate if it helps you carry the conversation and maintain a positive attitude.
Speak at an even pace
Don’t rush through your answers. Even if your interviewer tells you time is tight, speak calmly and with authority. If you’re nervous, pause and take a deep breath. You can also get up and walk around while waiting for the call – putting your body at ease will help regulate your speech patterns as well.
Remember your manners
Conduct yourself on the phone as you would in person. Don’t chew gum, and don’t distract yourself by watching something in the background or scrolling through social media. An interviewer will be able to tell that you’re distracted.
You also need to avoid interrupting the interviewer. It happens by mistake if you both start talking at the same time – it’s a phone call, and certain body language cues get missed. An interviewer won’t hold that against you. But don’t intentionally cut over the interviewer – they control the pace of the interview, not you. Give them space to finish talking before you answer.
Conclude as in a face-to-face interview
Just as you would for an in-person interview, thank the interviewer for their time. Let them know you enjoyed learning more about the role and reiterate your interest. Clarify the next steps if the hiring manager hasn’t already done so. You’re aiming to leave a strong, enthused impression with the interviewer. So be courteous, confident, and concise.
After the telephone interview
After the interview, if you’re still interested in taking the role, follow up just as you would with a face-to-face interview. Phone your recruiter straight after to give your feedback, and send a thank you note to the interviewer via your recruiter, affirming again, just how interested you are in the opportunity. Remember to keep your phone close by in the coming days.
Hopefully by now you’re feeling clearer on how best to prepare for a telephone interview. The key is to perfect your telephone manner, specifically your verbal communication skills, and put as much effort into preparing as you would a face-to-face interview. Confident in your interview skills, but not sure where to find your dream job? Contact Hays today and let us find it for you.