Telephone screening interviews have been around for many years.  Over the last couple of weeks their use has seen a massive increase, for obvious reasons.

Pretty much all screening is now carried out on the telephone, with video conferencing often being employed for short listed candidates and even final interviews.  If telephone interviews are new to you, or it’s been sometime since you took part in one, take a look at the First Base advice for making the right impression.

Research

Thoroughly research the company and the interviewer (check profiles on LinkedIn), just as if you were preparing to meet in person. Expect some variation on the question, “What do you know about us?”.  If you are not able to state the company’s key figures, strategy and markets, the interview might be over after three minutes.  One of the nice things about a phone interview is that you can have your reminder sheet in front of you.

Prepare your questions

These can make or break an interview.  Design insightful questions with two goals in mind: To give you the information you need to determine if you want to go further; and to show you are perfect for the job.

Be comfortable

Some people find telephone interview more stressful than the usual face to face meeting.

Do everything you can to make sure you feel at ease.  Shut out distractions and eliminate background noise if you can.  Explain if you have children in the house right now – many interviewers are in the same situation and will understand.  Have a glass of water handy, print out your CV and mark key parts that you want to highlight during the conversation.

Be ready 10 minutes early, you don’t want to sound rushed.  If you will be talking on a landline, turn off your smart phone; if you plan to do the interview on a smart phone, make sure it is fully charged.
Have a paper and pen handy, so you don’t have to take notes on your computer during the call — the keyboard clicks can’t be distracting for the interviewer.

If your computer makes audible pings as you receive email, turn off the sound.  Think of all those TV interview where we see experts being interviewed during the Covid-19 emergency – often interrupted by mobile phone ring tones and computer alerts.

DURING THE INTERVIEW

Listen

Usually, the interviewer will set the scene.  They will talk about expectations, maybe why the person before you left the job, what it takes to be successful in their company, the culture and what the main challenges will be.  Make notes so you are can respond to all these points when it is your turn to talk.

When it’s your turn

When we are face to face with someone, we send and receive visual cues.  On the phone, we have to make a good impression purely with our voices.  Before you start, take a drink of water to avoid having to clear your throat.  If you haven’t talked for several hours, think of doing some voice exercises before the call.   Posture is important, even on the telephone, and has a big impact on your voice.  Standing up sitting up very straight, will help to make your sound more confident and enthusiastic.

Try to smile as you speak.  If you don’t believe the difference this makes, test it by leaving yourself two identical voice messages — one with and one without smiling.  During the phone interview, good times to smile are when you talk about the work you’ve done, ask questions, or express your enthusiasm about the company.

Create a positive ending

If you really want the job, end the call on a positive note.   Say something such as, “Thanks for the call. I like what I heard and I’m confident I could fill the role.  I am very interested in this job and would be really pleased to move on to the next stage.  What is the next step?”

Post interview

Send a thank you note.  Your email should arrive on the same day, but not immediately after, the call.  Confirm your interest in the company, your ability to do the job and desire to take things to the next step.  If you are working with a recruitment agency update your recruitment consultant.  They are there to help you find the right job.

Patience is a virtue

You won’t necessarily get a reply to your thank-you message.  Follow up a week later, and again after two weeks.  Don’t keep ‘chasing’ – remember that everyone is under extra pressure with new challenges in these extraordinary times.  As we keep hearing in the news, these are all an unprecedented situation.  Stay optimistic, there are still companies recruiting and the present situation will pass.  In the meantime, build a strong and trusted relationship with your recruitment consultant and keep doing your best at interviews presented to you.

Contact the First Base team if you would like help with your next career move or advice and support through these challenging times.