Phone Interviews - How to Make the Right Impression Without the Face-to-Face Element

By Leslie Walters - Recruitment Director specialising in Accountancy Recruitment

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In today’s time poor commercial world, a phone interview can sometimes be the first direct interaction you have with a prospective employer or recruiter, so here’s some pointers on how to make the most of these interview opportunities.

The main thing to remember when you have a phone interview is to treat it in the same way that you would a face-to-face interview. It may not feel as formal but it’s every bit as important so prepare as though it were one – research the company, become familiar with the role they are recruiting for and prepare a couple of questions to ask your interviewer at the end of the interview.

Phone interviews are often used as an initial, screening part of the interview process, usually to cut down the numbers if a longish shortlist of possible candidates has been collated. Alternatively, if the company headquarters is not local to you, or even if the interviewer is not local to the location where the role will be based, you may only interview over the phone (or on Skype) so this maybe your only chance to sell yourself.

Phone interviews should still have some format and will usually consist of a short set of questions, usually competency and/or strengths based, which the interviewer will ask all candidates. Competency based questions, the industry norm for some time now, mean you will be expected to provide an example of how you performed in certain situations, for example, how you worked effectively in a team to achieve the desired business outcome.

However, more and more companies, such as Deloitte and Barclays, are now adopting a strengths-based approach. This style interview is a way of finding out what you like doing, whereas competency ones focus on what you can do.  The newer, strengths-based interview is looking to find out what kind of activities engage and inspire you - the reason being that when you are using your strengths, you perform your best and rapidly learn new information.

Here are some tips to make the most of phone interviews:

  • Just because there is no visual interaction, you should still act as if you are in front of the interviewer – see below for some pointers!
  • If you’re using a mobile phone, make sure you’ve got good reception – if possible use a landline instead. Avoid sitting in front of laptop/tablet or the TV with the sound muted! Even just looking at a screen for a couple of seconds will make you pause, lose your thread, or get totally distracted. You definitely shouldn’t be Googling the company mid interview!
  • Think about your posture – don’t sit slouched on the sofa, if you’re at home. Sit as if you were in a face to face interview, or even stand up! This may sound odd but it improves your breathing and projection and will allow you to come across much better.
  • Have your CV printed out so that you can refer to it. You might even want have a few notes in front of you to keep your focus on skills and experiences you want to focus on.
  • A common faux pas with phone interviews is interrupting the interviewer. This is easily done as you cannot read their body language. Wait for them to finish what they are saying, then pause and provide the answer.
  • Allow the interviewer to lead the way but as the interview draws to a close, remember to ask the questions you prepared beforehand, thank the interviewer for their time and ask about the next stage of the process.

Good luck!


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