Ring, ring! New career calling for a telephone interview

Body language, appearance, attire ‒ the importance of good physical projection when meeting any would-be employer can't be overstated. But what if, with the push of a few buttons and a jingling of your ringtone, these visible attributes were suddenly irrelevant? With pre-interview phone screenings and telephone interviews growing in popularity, that's precisely what's happening.

Telephone interviews are a fresh mountain to be mastered by any job seeker. Often used to quickly slim down an applicant shortlist, they can be a daunting prospect. There is hope, however. Follow the tips below to sparkle over speakerphone and avoid early elimination from the selection process.

Practice makes perfect

It's an obvious one, but if you're not used to the phone interview format, get some practice under your belt before the big day. With the pervasiveness of messaging apps and modern forms of communication, the humble phone call is fast becoming a bygone activity. Brush up on your telephony skills with a few lengthy conversations before the interview.

When doing so, try your best to avoid monosyllabic answers ‒ instead, consciously craft fuller and more thoughtful responses. A sophisticated vocabulary will always impress an interviewer, but you can't beat clear, concise language - especially over the phone, when expression-aiding physical gestures aren't an option. Practice your articulation of key phrases relevant to the job opportunity and don't be afraid to ask for the other side's appraisal. Best to know you're a mumbler before a make-or-break interview!       

Prepare as you would for any other interview           

With no need to leave the house, dress to impress, or even tame your bedhead, it's easy to find yourself thinking "This phone call tomorrow isn't a real interview." Wrong! Telephone interviews may feel less formal, but if you're going to stand any chance at progressing in the selection process then you need to hit the ground running.

Any preparation you would do prior to a sit-down interview must be completed in advance of your phone conversation as well. That means looking up the company, its values, and its history, as well as the specific requirements of the role you're pursuing. Be ready to answer the basics: why you want the position, what you would bring to the role, your strengths and your weaknesses, and everything else you'd expect an employer to ask.

Keep your notes handy

If there's one big advantage a phone interview has for the applicant, it's invisibility. Free of the interviewer's withering stare, you can keep all your research notes handy. Make sure you've assembled all the information into easily articulated chunks though ‒ even the most inexperienced employer can tell when they're being read a spiel straight from the page and that will do little to impress.

It's also worth keeping a copy of your own CV and completed application form nearby ‒ an interviewer is likely to reference your earlier responses or quiz you on past experience. Finally, a blank sheet of paper and pen are also worthy companions. Jotting down any ideas and questions that you have will help to keep your mind clear.

Choose your setting

Another great benefit afforded by the telephone interview is its flexibility in location. Assuming you have a decent signal on your phone, you can quite literally conduct proceedings from wherever you want! There are a few key criteria for finding the best spot, though. First and foremost, pick somewhere quiet. If you're missing every second word over the noise of the cafe's cash register clanging shut, you're unlikely to leave the best impression. It's also important that you find somewhere you feel comfortable and relaxed enough to take the call, but not overly so. Laying in your bed, while comfortable, is likely to hinder your projection of professionalism. Instead, try a light and airy living room where you feel at ease but also energetic and fizzling with energy.

Project your voice … and listen!

A phone interview is likely to be your first direct contact with the company you're keen to join. Unlike conventional interviews, where first impressions are pegged on how you present yourself in person, on the phone the main currency is your voice. The key is to speak authoritatively, but not aggressively. You're certainly not looking to convey a domineering tone, but you also don't want to come over as lacking in confidence. Imagine you're a lecturer standing in front of a class of mature students: speak with clarity and assuredness, but avoid any hint of condescension.

The importance of listening carefully cannot be understated either. Even if the interviewer can't see you, gazing out of the window or glancing through a magazine will keep you from being present. Instead, jot down notes on the questions and begin formulating sensible responses.

Honourable mentions

Smile! It's funny to think about, but you really can hear a smile in someone's voice ‒ it's an interview winner in person and over the phone. No snacking! Is there anything worse than having to listen to those few remaining cornflakes fulfil their final destiny? And lastly, a personal tip: I often gently pace the room when speaking with a would-be employer, as it helps me to focus. Just make sure not to run out of breath!

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