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Seven top tips for your telephone interview

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

Telephone interviews are often a key stage in an internship or graduate application process and so it's important to know how to tackle them. We share our top seven tips on how to make sure you knock yours out of the park.

Seven top tips for your telephone interview

1. Dress smartly

It may sound strange, but it's really important to get into character ahead of an interview. Whether it is face-to-face, on video, or on the phone, one of the best ways to get in the right frame of mind can be to dress smartly. A good rule of thumb for meeting employers is to dress as if you already work there. It can be hard to think and professionally if you're slumped on your bed in your pyjamas, so pop on a shirt or a smart dress and you'll find it's much easier to respond as you need to.

2. Stand up and smile

Conveying energy and enthusiasm can be tricky over the telephone so one way to do this effectively is to stand up and walk around. Your body is surprisingly adept at tricking your mind; try standing in a confident pose for two minutes and it will actually raise your confidence. The same applies to smiling; it can actually improve your mood.

Tailor your posture to the persona you want to project on the phone. It allows you to channel your energy into your speech and to keep your answers sounding fresh and energised; you also sound a lot clearer when you are standing straight than when you are hunched. Similarly, smiling during your answers will build warmth into your speech - allowing you to engage further with the interviewer.

Learn the things to avoid in a telephone interview.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Just as you would for a face-to-face interview, make sure you have practiced your answers to key competency and motivation questions such as 'Why do you want to work here?' and 'Tell me about a time you have worked in a team'. It can also be useful to make some notes that you can refer back to during the telephone interview, although avoid reading your answers as your voice will lose energy and your response will sound scripted.

With this in mind, when you get a call at 10:30 on a Wednesday, make sure you're up in plenty of time, know the name of the person who's calling and you’ve done your research. Otherwise, it gives the impression you are unable to organise your affairs and that you're blasé about the job application process. 

4. Have everything to hand

If you're being interviewed, then you have probably already sent them your CV; make sure you have it to hand because it's fairly likely they will be drawing on it. Similarly, if there is information about the employer or the job that you worry you might forget then make a note of it.

Read: How to ace your video interview

5. Be concise

Phone interviews are normally shorter than those that occur in person. This means you may only have a limited time to make your impact. Practice your answers to possible open ended questions; you don't want to be rambling on when they ask you about your teamwork skills. 

6. Don't Google it...

If you're asked a question you don't know, don't try to wriggle out of it by having a quick search on Google. This is usually pretty obvious ("errrrr....." silence... followed by quick typing sound followed by "Yes, well as a leading asset management business serving firms across the international stage....") and it will prevent you from addressing the answer directly. Instead, if you aren't sure, just as in a face to face interview, try to work around the problem or ask a clarifying question to try to help you get to the answer.

7. Location, location

Telephone interviews are usually scheduled in advance. As such, there is no excuse for being in a room with bad telephone signal or with lots of background noise. Make sure you are somewhere quiet and where you can speak uninterruptedly without any risk of poor telephone reception. Coffee shops might seem like a good idea, but espresso machines, babies and teenagers are one of the noisiest combinations. Getting these things wrong won't set the best first impression with your interviewer and risks damaging your impact over the phone.

Things to remember

1. It’s still an interview

Often a telephone interview is preceded by the idea that it's ‘informal’. While this can be true, it does not mean you can throw colloquialisms and slang around like you're mid-conversation with your best friend. 

The reality is that a telephone call is a great way of sifting out the serious contenders from the pretenders – usually in less than 15 minutes.

2. It starts as soon as you pick up the phone

Let me elaborate. Imagine you have seen an opportunity of interest and you decide to call up to find out more. It may only be a speculative phone call but remember, first impressions count. Make sure you have read the job description properly so that you can be transferred, if necessary, to the right person. 

Also, treat whomever you speak to with the same respect as you would do the interviewer. It takes one flippant comment or a seemingly arrogant attitude to quash your chances before they have even begun. 

Take a practice run of your telephone interview.

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