Phone interviews are becoming an increasingly common recruitment practice as they represent a great way of saving time (and expense) for both the applicant and the hiring company. They provide a useful opportunity to identify the potentially compatible candidates, and eliminate the weaker ones, before the first face to face meeting is scheduled. But, from a candidate’s point of view, how exactly should you prepare for a phone interview and is there anything you can be doing to make the process easier, and more effective, for yourself?
In essence, a phone interview should be treated the same as a face to face interview in terms of the preparation needed. Don’t assume that because it is ‘only’ a phone interview that it is any less important. Whilst a minority of companies may use them as a brief screening call only (for example, to check that salary and location requirements are matched) most phone interviews are every bit as rigid and structured as a face to face meeting, and failure to prepare properly means that your application will not be progressed. As simple as that. So follow the same rules of interview preparation - do your research on the company and the job, re-read your CV or application form, and prepare loose answers to some of the questions that you think may arise.
What is different about a phone interview is that you can use notes to prompt your answers. Obviously this works better for some people than others - there is always the risk that you will get so lost in your own notes that you will fail to pay full attention to what the interviewer is actually asking. But most people are able to use a brief amount of pre-prepared notes to their advantage. As part of you preparation then, jot down some of the key achievements that you wish to share with the interviewer at an appropriate moment, perhaps some situations at work which have allowed you to display key competencies, write a few brief bullet points to that tricky “tell me about yourself” question, and make a note of the questions you wish to ask the interviewer at the end of the session so that you don’t draw a complete blank when asked. The key thing here is to keep your notes brief and only use them when you have to. Don’t become overly reliant on them.
A few final tips:
- have a glass of water handy so that you can use it if you get tongue-tied
- be very aware of the speed of your voice. Nerves tend to make us speak more quickly making what we say less clear. Slow it down.
- it can be helpful to stand up during the entirety of your phone interview as it encourages natural assertiveness and confidence.
- make sure you agree a time with the interviewer where you have the privacy that you need and are free from interruptions
So, wait for that phone to ring, take a deep breath and good luck!