Phone interviews are becoming an increasingly common recruitment practice as they represent a great way of saving time (and expense) for both the applicant and the hiring company. As recruiters often get more applications than they can realistically interview, phone interviews can provide a useful opportunity to screen candidates before they organise face-to-face interviews.
Some people enjoy phone interviews, some people don’t. While they are not for everybody, from a candidate’s point of view phone interviews can be extremely beneficial as they can give you a chance to find out more about the company and the role, and for you to decide whether you would like to proceed with your application.
Regardless of whether you like phone interviews or not, if you have been invited to take part in one, then you will need to prepare. In this article, we look at how to prepare for a phone interview so when the time comes, you can impress recruiters.
What should I do to prepare for my phone interview?
Firstly, a phone interview should be treated the same as a face to face interview in terms of the preparation needed.
Don’t assume that because it is ‘only’ a phone interview that it is any less important than a face-to-face interview. While a minority of companies may only use a phone interview as a brief screening call only, most phone interviews are every bit as rigid and structured as a face to face meeting. Therefore, it is imperative that you are fully prepared.
1. Do your research
As with a face-to-face interview, before your telephone interview you need to do your research.
Find out more about the size and the structure of the company, the markets it works in as well as any products and services it offers. Their website is the best place to start and will help you find out the basics, but you should also take a look at any news articles they may have been mentioned in or given quotes to, as well as any press releases they may have put out in the last few months. This is especially useful if they have announced any plans for expansion.
Re-read the job description and compare it against your CV. Match up your skills with the skills they are looking for, and your experience with the tasks you will be asked to complete. Feel free to annotate, make any notes or highlight things that you want to remember or think will be important. A benefit of a telephone interview is that you can have your CV, the job description, and any other notes to hand while on the phone, so use this to your advantage.
Not only should you be doing research around the company but you should also be reading around the industry and keeping up to date with current events and how these might impact the company you are interviewing for. While you will not be expected to go into detail at this early stage, showing commercial awareness early on will impress recruiters. You can read more about how to demonstrate commercial awareness here.
2. Make some notes
As we mentioned, the good thing about a phone interview is that you can have everything you need sitting right in front of you. This means that you can have your CV, the job description and any notes that you have made just a reach away. Which brings us onto our next tip: make some notes.
Re-read the job description, personal specification, your CV and any research you have done on the company. You should then evaluate which you think are the most important points and put them in a concise, bullet-pointed list. Try and keep this to under a page for each, as you don’t want to get lost in your notes when talking to the interviewer, nor do you want them to hear any papers rustling.
Top tip: keep your notes in note form, don’t write long sentences, otherwise you may find yourself reading from what will essentially be a script the chances are, the interviewer will notice.
3. Practice answering some interview questions
There is no way of knowing what questions the interviewer is going to ask you, but you can practice answering some interview questions by way of preparation.
A good way of doing this is getting a family member or friend to take part in a mock interview with you (with them as the interviewer, obviously). Get them to ask you some common interview questions so you can practice how you will answer them. For example, some common interview questions include:
- Tell me a bit about yourself
- Why do you want to work here?
- What do you know about the company?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What are your goals?
If you wanted to be really prepared, you could record your mock interview and listen to it back. This will tell you where you use filler words, such as um, and help you improve your answers.
4. Leave some time before the interview to prepare
Once you have confirmed the date and the time of the phone interview, make sure you know what time you are going to start getting yourself prepared. As you are not attending the interview in person, it can be easy to think you have lots of time, then to realise that you only have ten minutes to get yourself settled and ready.
Ideally, you should start preparing for your interview around forty-five minutes beforehand. This might seem like a long time, especially for a phone interview, but you will be grateful for the extra time. Here are some ways you can make sure that you are fully prepared for when the phone rings;
- Get dressed!
- This sounds obvious, but dress as if you were going to a face to face interview, it will make you feel more confident, focused and professional. You can change back into your pyjamas afterwards.
- Stay hydrated
- Drink some water and, if you haven’t spoken in a few hours, do some voice exercises or practice answering some questions.
- Read through the notes you have made
- Go through the job description, your CV and the research you have done about the company one more time. You might think of another question you want to ask them or think of another point you want to make.
- Create the perfect interview environment
- Ideally you should be in a quiet room, either a dining room or a study, where you can lay out your notes and have everything within easy reach. Close to door and keep all background noise to a minimum.
- Have a pen and paper ready to take notes, and make sure you have some water close by.
- If you have any pets, or anyone else is in the house, make sure that they are not in the room and will not disturb you.
- Make sure you are comfortable; you don’t want to be distracted because you are too cold or you can’t get comfy on the chair you are sitting on!
If you follow those tips above, you should be fully prepared by the time the phone rings!
Top tips for during a phone interview
Once the phone rings, you are in interview mode. This means that you should answer the phone promptly and be polite from the word ‘hello’. Here are some other things you should keep in mind during your phone interview:
- Smile when you are speaking
- Although they can’t see you, smiling will change the tone of your voice and will give you more energy and show enthusiasm.
- Take your time answering questions
- It is perfectly fine to take some time to gather your thoughts after an interviewer has asked you a question.
- Listen carefully and stay focused
- Staying focused during a phone interview can be trickier than when you are in a face to face interview. Be sure to listen to the question carefully and ask for clarification if you need it.
- Do not interrupt the interviewer, if you have any questions you should write them down and either ask them at the end of the interview or after they have finished asking the question.
- Speak slowly and enunciate
- If you are nervous, you may find that you speak quite quickly which can make it harder for the interviewer to hear you properly. Take some time to compose yourself before you answer and make sure you speak clearly.
- Make sure you have some questions ready at the end of the interview
- When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, be ready to respond with some questions of your own
- Have some ready in advance, but if you also think of questions during the interview then save some of these for the end too.
- Make sure you say thank you at the end of the interview
- You should also send a follow-up email after the interview thanking the interviewer for their time and to reiterate your interest in the job.
Hopefully these tips will help you prepare for your phone interview. As long as you do your research, listen to the interviewer and answer clearly and concisely, you should be well on your way to securing a face to face interview. Good luck!