How best to prepare for telephone job interviews

At some point in your career, someone is going to tell you they want to do a phone interview, before proceeding to a formal interview. You'll probably be told We'll ring you back in half an hour, or something like that.

This is a real interview, and it's also a screening interview. Because of the volume of candidates some jobs attract, the telephone interview works like a filter, finding the best applicants.

So the good news is that you've got this far, at least. Your application was good enough to get you to consideration for an interview, and this is the next phase.

Phone interviews feel a bit different. They're not as pressurized as formal interviews, and you don't have to dress up for them, etc. You can also concentrate on the questions, without the distractions of a strange environment, new people, and having to travel to get there. That's a big plus, so take advantage of the opportunity.

There are a few physical advantages to telephone interviews for job applicants, as well. One of them is that you can have all your materials prepared. You've been given some warning, so get yourself set up to do the interview.

You will need:

  • Quiet. Make absolutely sure there's no noise, and no distractions.
  • Use a fixed line phone, if you can. Mobiles can cut out on you at the wrong times. If you don't have one, make sure your mobile's charged, and reception is OK.
  • Your CV. Use it for reference, so you can check up on your information for this job.
  • A copy of the job ad. This is the basic reference for the telephone interview.
  • Copies of your application and cover letter. This is what you've already told them, and the chances are good that one of the questions will be about information on your application.
  • Any professional or other references you want. These are always useful, and having a few facts around when you need them is reassuring, at least.
  • Keep all these things organized and handy. Give yourself some room, keep everything neat, and make sure you know where everything is.
  • Get comfortable. Have a cup of coffee on hand, a favorite chair, or whatever helps.
  • Have a pen and paper handy. This is in case you need them, like to note down the address and time of the formal interview.
Prepare for this like any other interview.

Try and foresee questions. There are a few basic questions, like Give me an example of how you solved a problem, which are standard questions. telephone interviews are usually baseline-level questions.

Concentrate on the job's essentials, in particular. If the ad says Communication Skills, Problem Solving Skills, etc, that's what they want to hear about in a telephone interview, and those are the skills you need to show.

Remember your interview techniques. You can expect mainly pretty standard questions. Telephone interviews are very much like normal interviews.

Think about any questions you have for them. You'll definitely be asked.

Rules for telephone interviews:

  • Remember to listen closely to the questions. Absolutely vital.
  • If you don't understand the questions, or didn't hear them clearly, you can ask for them to be repeated.
  • IMPORTANT: Don't go off topic. Stick to the subject of the question. Time is an issue with telephone interviews, and you're wasting your own time if you stray off the subject.
  • Be courteous. Treat the interviewer like your employer, from the start.
  • Speak plainly. The idea is to get your message across clearly.

Telephone interviews are becoming quite common. Employers and job agencies are starting to use them widely, because they save a lot of time and resources. Now the good news- If you get through the telephone interview, you're now one of the real candidates for the job. Out of 100 applicants, after the telephone interview, they're down to no more than 10, at most.

This could be a very valuable telephone call.