Student and Graduate Publishing

Mastering the Telephone Interview

Friday, 07 July 2017 10:41

Let’s face it, the competition for graduate jobs is fierce. With more and more people applying for a limited number of jobs, employers are having to sift through more applications to make a shortlist for interview. One method becoming more common is the telephone interview. 

Employers will often carry out a telephone interview before deciding to proceed with a face-to-face meeting at their office. It’s easy to dismiss this as a quick chat with the recruiter, but telephone interviews can be more important than the follow-up meeting. This is what determines if your application goes any further.

The biggest tip I can give you is this: prepare for the telephone interview in the exact same way you would for a meeting at their office. Download or print off the job spec, go through it and annotate every single requirement with examples of how you have done this in the past. It doesn’t have to be a professional example. If they’re looking for someone with strong organisational skills, you can talk about how you planned and organised your dissertation. They’ll most likely only ask you about two or three specific examples, but you never know which ones they’ll pick, so best to prepare for all of them. Don’t forget to research the company themselves; you’ll be expected to know at least a little bit about them.

Next is preparing to take the call. The temptation with a telephone interview is to take the call in bed, or sitting on the sofa in your pants. Bad idea. You need to get yourself into a professional frame of mind. I’m not saying wear a suit, but at least a pair of trousers! I’ve found the best way is to sit at a table, with a copy of the job spec, your application and your CV. They may refer to any of these documents, and it’ll sound really unprofessional if you have to start rooting around to find the right one. 

Most of the time you’ll agree a time and number in advance, and the employer will call you, but sometimes you’ll be expected to dial into a conference call. You should be supplied with the details beforehand, so you may want to try making a test call to familiarise yourself with the procedure. The conference session won’t be active until the interview date, so don’t worry about the call going through to someone.

The final part is the call itself. The employer can’t see your body language, so you’ll need to use verbal indicators to show you’re paying attention. When the interviewer is speaking, say something to indicate that you’re following the conversation, and chip in when appropriate (but make sure you’re not interrupting them). Ask them for more information about the job role, but save any questions on pay, holidays or company perks for the next interview. Ideally, you want to come across as polite but confident, friendly but respectful.

If all goes well, you should hear back from them soon with an offer for a follow-up interview.

- By Ed Irwin