Top 10 tips for a successful Telephone Interview

 By Jez Styles, AdMore Recruitment- Specialists in Retail and Hospitality Search

While we have seen an increase in the use of Skype and other video based technology it would seem that the use of the Telephone Interview is back on the rise. It is an inexpensive method for judging cultural and or behavioural fit and is often the first stage in recruitment processes; Forming the backbone of a labour intensive campaign or quite simply an ‘informal chat’ for a senior executive. It is however, full of pitfalls for candidates. Here are ten easy to follow tips that will ensure you create the best impression possible.

1) Get the Environment right:

Try to avoid conducting the interview in a busy, noisy environment or indeed in your car. A private office where you will not be disturbed is perfect. Too many telephone interviews are interrupted by questions from colleagues, or the barista behind the counter at Starbucks! Ensure you allow enough time for the interview and do not assume it will be a ‘quick ten minutes.’  Use a landline for receiving the call. Poor mobile phone reception is the single biggest reason why many telephone interviews fail to take place. While they are technological wonders, our mobile phones are surprisingly unreliable at the worst possible time when it comes to their most fundamental function; making and receiving calls.

2) Prepare.

This is a fantastic opportunity to have your notes and CV in front of you during the interview. Make sure you summarise your notes focussing on key points to avoid scripted answers.

3) Sit in front of the mirror.

This may seem a little odd but quite simply it will give you an indication of how you are coming across. Do you look animated? Is your head up? Perhaps most importantly are you smiling? If not then try to focus on doing so, this may translate in you feeling more confident and therefore sounding more positive!  Alternatively you could try standing up and walking around. If you are more comfortable walking and talking then ensure you are in the right environment to do this. Many people feel they are more animated when upright and this allows for a greater level of focus.

4) DO NOT actively listen when asked questions.

A common mistake to make, however actively listening in a telephone interview can disrupt flow as you will find the interviewer may stop talking. This can lead to a disjointed and awkward conversation.

5) Ask the interviewer to rephrase or repeat back the question.

If you are slightly uncertain about the question either ask the interviewer to rephrase or indeed paraphrase this back. You should try to avoid doing this repeatedly but it is better to get your answer right first time.

6) Use regular pauses.

Leave healthy pauses after every two or three sentences to allow the interviewer to either drill further down or confirm they have heard enough.

7) Vary your pace, pitch and tone.

It is very difficult to convey energy and empathy over the phone so it is important that you vary your speech. The monotone interview is the bane of all interviewers!

8) Practice a CV run through.

The structure of telephone interviews will often vary but a standard format will be CV based. If you are asked to run through your career history you should qualify how long this should last. Do they want a 30 second elevator pitch or a detailed 30 minute conversation? Either way, plan ahead!

9) Build rapport early on but avoid too many jokes!

As with all interviews first impressions count. Good interviewers will try to break the ice early on. Reciprocate and avoid coming across as ‘cold.’

10) Ask Questions.

Like most interviews you will get a chance to ask questions. If an interviewer has a solid day of telephone interviews you will probably stand out more if you ask an insightful question about the business/role and more importantly about them.

I hope this helps and as always feel free to add some suggestions to the comments below.


Jez Styles

Views: 42791

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on November 28, 2012 at 8:37am

Excellent article.  However, I would expand upon point two, prepare.  This is essential for any interview, but especially for a phone conversation.  Candidates must know about the company they are interviewing with and, if at all possible, the person they will be talking to.  Too many phone interviews are lost because candidates have not done their homework. By the way, I especially love your point about sitting in front of a mirror.  It is really good advice. 

Comment by AdMore Recruitment on November 28, 2012 at 8:59am

Hi Paul, thanks for your comments, glad you like the point about the mirror! It does go down well with candidates, if it does make the feel slighly uncomforable!

Comment by Suzanne Levison on November 28, 2012 at 11:00am

I agree, the mirror is a good idea. You may want to role play prior for voice quality~call a friend and practice, use your best voice, calm and assured

Comment by Tim Spagnola on December 1, 2012 at 10:44am

Nice work Jez - over 1000 IN shares and picked up as one of the week's top stories on LinkedIn. The RBC certainly provides quite the stage.

Comment by Jill Gilliland on January 31, 2013 at 6:03pm
Great points Jez, thank you. These tips are valuable additions to our telephone interview candidate-coaching toolkit. One additional recommendation we have for our candidates, as they prepare for a telephone interview, is to have them write down five to six scenarios that answer behaviorally based questions. We ask them to focus on situations in which they had the opportunity to: problem solve, meet a goal, develop a solution, or deal with a difficult situation. We give them a list of targeted characteristics, values, and skills to highlight in their scenarios, which anticipate employer's section criteria. Scenario preparation can alleviate the uncomfortable feeling, and sometimes paralyzing stress, that can result from thinking on the spot. When candidates are ready to answer questions, they are more likely to demonstrate the qualities and strengths that the employer is looking for.
Comment by AdMore Recruitment on February 1, 2013 at 3:11am

Thanks Jill, good points. We are also seeing a number of clients asking for 2 if not 3 examples around each compentency with the view the first point can be pre-prepared. Certainly focuses the mind!

Comment by pam claughton on February 3, 2013 at 9:48am

Can you explain how you define active listening? I imagine it's likely different than how I think of it. Your list is very good, but the one thing I always emphasize to candidates for all interviews is to be an active listener rather than trying to anticipate the next question and seeming distracted. The goal being to really focus on what the interviewer is saying, as then your interview can take on the feel of a back and forth conversation. The more you listen, the less you have to struggle to come up with an answer and the better you'll be received. :)

Comment by Jez on February 6, 2013 at 5:18am

Hi Pam, in this instance I would define 'active listening' as giving verbal indications such as 'um or aha.' Clearly there are no other ways of actively listening on a call. If during an interview a candidate 'actively listens' there is a good chance this will disrupt flow and lead to the interviewer stopping mid sentence as they may believe the candidate is looking to interject. Overall this can lead to a disjointed call.

In most other interview situations I would encourage active listening. Hope this helps, Jez @ AdMore.


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2024   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service