11 Sep 2017

Telephone Interviews...

I never used to be a fan of the telephone interview but they are becoming increasingly common so I am regularly preparing candidates for the experience.  Time poor Managers are trying to reduce the interview lead time by conducting first interviews by phone – although I have noticed that the clients who like to do first interviews by phone tend to interview twice as many candidates – so perhaps they don’t actually save that much time at all! 

The majority of telephone interviews tend to be 20 to 30 minutes long.  The best advice I can give you is to never under-estimate a telephone interview.  Clients genuinely want to be able to create a second interview shortlist as a result of the call and they themselves are usually armed with several questions/filters that they want to resolve during the chat.

So I would prepare much as you would for a face to face interview. That would include website and social media research, review of client case studies, having a copy of your CV and the Job description in front of you having done some cross referencing on where you can add value – use big pointers to highlight things that you really want to get across to the interviewer.  Always have examples of your key skills and have a list of projects/campaigns that you’ve worked on that demonstrate these skills – it’s great to have these to hand when the brain isn’t working quickly enough to think on the spot. Keep your notes brief so that you can refer to them easily without shuffling lots of paper around.

One client said to me recently that the reason he chooses to do first interviews by phone is to avoid judging people based on looks and presentation.  This is a good thing.  I often think that in a face to face interview, an interviewer can decide in the first 5 minutes that someone isn’t right – and that’s got to be built on quick personal judgements as you’ve barely had a chance to say anything at that point!

Another client makes the point that the majority of client relationships are managed by phone so he wants to see if future recruits have a good telephone manner, if they can have a proper conversation, if they can engage and have empathy over the phone. 

As per face to face interviews, do your homework then focus on your surroundings.  Make sure you are somewhere quiet for the call with no interruptions.  A candidate recently thought they’d manage to do a phone interview whilst their 3 year old was in the same room.  Whilst the interviewer was from a family friendly agency, they just felt that the individual hadn’t valued a phone interview with the same importance as a face to face interview – you’d never attend an interview with your child would you? (And remember that recent BBC news reporter who was skyping when his toddler burst into the room. Not good – although very funny.)

I’d recommend that you stand up and try to smile during the chat.  You might feel like a bit of a plonker but I assure you it will make a difference.   Use the name of the interviewer when responding to questions – but don’t overdo it.  Make sure you have enough battery on your phone – you don’t want the technology to let you down. For some candidates, a quick caffeine fix is required 45 minutes pre-call, just to ensure you are firing on all cylinders.  Best not to go to the other extreme with a couple of glasses of wine though.. .(things you’d think I wouldn’t need to advise....#354). Save that for when you’ve got the job.