What to Expect & How to Prepare for a Telephone Interview


Jul 24, 2000




Many companies and placement firms utilize telephone interviews to initiate the recruitment process. As an employer, I prefer to conduct telephone interviews as a screening tool, to decide whether or not I want to pursue a face to face interview with the candidate. As an applicant, I like participating in telephone interviews to gather more information on the company, before making the commitment to actually meet with the employer face to face. Generally speaking, most telephone interviews last approximately 45 minutes to one hour. However, some may take less time (if you decide that the position is not worth pursuing further for whatever reason, such as relocation or salary requirements), or last longer (if you have established a strong rapport with the interviewer, or if they are going by a structured format that goes beyond an hour). If you have sent your resume out to employers, either via mail or online, you should prepare yourself for the possibility of a telephone interview.

The main objectives of the interviewer during the Telephone interview are to:
1. Ask questions and learn more about information provided on the applicant’s resume,
2. Determine the applicant’s level of interest,
3. Get a sense for the applicant’s verbal communication skills
4. Decide whether to invite the candidate for a face to face interview.

The good news about participating in a telephone interview is that you do not have to travel, dress up, have a firm hand shake, or make eye contact. Keeping that in mind, all of the significance will be based on your communication skills. Try to establish your candidacy during the first 5 minutes of the interview (you will usually be asked to summarize your background). During the interview, answer questions precisely. Do not ramble off the subject or interrupt the interviewer. Speak clearly, and watch your grammar and verbal skills. Avoid using “fillers” in your sentences (such as “uh”, “um” “like”). Relax, remain calm, and be yourself.

Watch out for “The Sneak Attack”
Although I do not agree with this particular method, many recruiters and placement firms will call at any given time (evenings or weekends), if you have posted a resume with a headhunter or online (which is why I refer to this method as the sneak attack, because they catch the applicant off guard). Some recruiters like to see how an applicant responds to questions without preparation. I had a friend tell me that she posted her resume on Monster.com, and was called by a recruiter, and felt uncomfortable because she wasn’t prepared to interview at that particular time, and felt like she ruined her opportunity. In order to avoid this, politely let the employer or recruiter know that you are getting ready to leave for an appointment or have guests, and ask if you can schedule a time that is mutually acceptable with both the recruiter and you.

Scheduling
After you schedule an appropriate time for the interview, designate an area that will be free from background distractions, such as a barking dog, television, stereo, or a crying child. If you have call waiting, turn it off before the interview (there is a number you can dial from your phone company to do this). You need to focus your time and energy toward the interview. I interviewed one lady over the phone once that kept asking me to “hang on” while she disciplined her children and scolded her barking dog. I tried to be polite and asked her if she would like to reschedule, although we had scheduled that interview a week prior to that date. She said no, because it would always be that way for her at any time. Needless to say, I did not pursue her candidacy any further.

Be prepared
Be sure that you have researched the company before your scheduled interview so that you have determined their needs and can direct your comments to address those particular needs. Practice answering interviewing questions prior to the interview (for a listing of frequently asked interview questions, see my review at: http://madyl.epinions.com/educ-review-7D8F-BDAB598-38E6F10B-prod2 ).

One big advantage of a telephone interviewing is that you can prepare a summary sheet of notes for the interview (or “cheat sheet”) for areas that you would like to discuss. Have a pen and notepad ready. Take plenty of notes. Do not eat or drink anything during the interview (try a light meal or snack before the interview), except for an occasional sip of water.

Closing
At the end of the interview, if the interviewer does not indicate their next step (either by scheduling you for an in person interview or giving you a time frame for when they will complete their deliberation), it is appropriate to ask the interviewer when they will be conducting second interviews, so that you can have a general time frame in mind. Be courteous and thank the interviewer for their time.

After your phone conversation ends, review your notes for the next step, since the information is still fresh in your mind. Consider your conversation, to see if the job discussed was also the right fit for you. Hopefully, you have been presented with enough information from your interview to make a decision to continue pursuing that particular opportunity, or to look for another employment possibility elsewhere. Good luck with your job search!



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