One of the innovations in recruitment practice in the last decade is the increasing use of telephone interviews. In addition to their use in standard job recruitment, many of the return to work programmes we support use them as part of the screening process when deciding who to invite for face-to-face interviews or to selective returner events.
If you’ve not had an interview for many years, the process may seem daunting, particularly if a telephone interview is a totally new experience for you. We are often asked for advice about how to handle them; in particular, the lack of personal contact can be seen as a barrier. Although telephone interviews throw up different challenges from the traditional format, with the right preparation and approach, you will be able to put yourself across well.
What’s different about a telephone interview?
- Lack of visual clues: clearly, you are not able to see your interviewer (or vice versa). This means you’ll miss out on the normal conversational cues about whether you have the interviewer’s interest or are answering in the way they expect. Similarly, the interviewer won’t have any visual cues about your engagement or enthusiasm for the role. This means you have to use other methods to ensure a good understanding.
- Length and format: telephone interviews are commonly shorter than traditional interviews and the interviewer is often working from a set of highly structured questions, with less introductory ‘small talk’ so it may be harder to build rapport. With returner programmes, they may also want to check on your eligibility (whether you have had a career break for the specified period of time) and/or whether you would be happy with the level and salary of the positions available.
- Nature of interviewer: as the telephone interview is part of an initial suitability screen, the interviewer could be a recruitment generalist who might not have detailed knowledge of the company or the role/programme for which you are applying.
Preparation is key
As with all interviews, your preparation will be vital and all the advice we give in our other posts is relevant (see links below). In addition, you can do the following:
- Ask in advance about the interview format, length, types of questions and what the interviewer will be assessing (for example this might be a CV-based check on your match with the profile, an assessment of your motivations, or an competency-based interview).
- Think about your answers to common interview questions and make some notes, but don’t write out a script as you will sound wooden if you read from it, rather than speaking naturally.
- Make arrangements to ensure that you will be uninterrupted (especially by children!)
- Give yourself time just before the interview to prepare mentally and physically. Have a pen & paper and a copy of your CV and cover letter in front of you to refer to.
- Dress in business wear if it helps you to feel confident that you will project the right image.
During the interview …
- Behave as you would in a face-to-face interview.
- Don’t worry about silence, the interviewer is probably writing.
- You can check on your performance by asking if you have answered the question fully or if more detail is needed.
- Smile – you’ll sound more enthusiastic and confident.
- Speak clearly and not too quickly.
- Sit up straight or speak standing up if this allows you to talk with more power and energy
… and make this your opportunity to stand out
To show your enthusiasm and commitment in a limited time:
- Provide clear, succinct and focused responses to the questions you are asked. Avoid rambling!
- Keep your voice upbeat and fully of energy.
- Project yourself as the professional person you would like to be seen as, after all, you can’t be judged any other way!
After the interview
- Make notes on what you discussed.
- Do send a thank you email as you would for any other interview.
Other useful posts: