Telephone interviews are becoming an important
part of the recruitment process. They are now used frequently
by many organisations, as the first stage in selecting a candidate.
Telephone interviews save time and cost relatively less
Employers conduct telephone interviews for a variety of reasons.
They may have received hundreds of responses to a vacancy advertisement
and do not want to go through a face-to-face interview with each
applicant. A number of applicants may be residing in other cities,
and the organisation wants to save on the time and cost involved
in arranging in-depth interviews across the table for these applicants.
The pile of resumes received can be significantly reduced by just
conducting a short telephone interview and then short-listing
the suitable applicants.
Employers, therefore, use the telephone interview as an initial
screening interview. It is a short, cost-effective
way of finding out the answers to the following questions about
Telephone interviews could be scheduled or unscheduled
There is no fixed system for when a telephone interview is held,
unlike a face-to-face interview where the time, date and venue
are scheduled well in advance. Some employers could inform you
before-hand when they are likely to call. Others may just decide
to pick up the phone and call you in the evening when they expect
that you would be back from work. You also cannot be sure who
is making the first call, whether the HR person or the recruiting
In this scenario, it makes sense to be prepared because you never
know when you will receive the telephone call. In case you receive
the call, without prior notice, at a bad time, when you are in
the middle of some domestic chore, you could take down the person's
name and telephone number and say you would call back after 5
minutes. Or, you could request the caller to hold on for a few
seconds till you get your act together in terms of getting a paper/pencil
and your documents ready. Otherwise, you may not be psychologically
prepared and could be caught on the wrong foot from the word go.
If you are lucky, you may be informed of a date and time when
the telephone interview will be held. This will may things easier
for you in terms of being mentally prepared, having the relevant
papers by your side, speaking suitably for the occasion etc.
Through this article, we will provide guidelines on how you can
prepare for a telephone interview - to improve your performance
and increase your chances of being short-listed.
Try to get short-listed to the next stage of the face-to-face
What is your objective in a telephone interview?
As the telephone interview is usually the initial screening
interview that works as an elimination round, your objective is
to get short-listed! Getting short-listed implies that you move
on to the next round of the face-to-face interview.
You need to, therefore, prepare for this telephone interview
and not treat it as lightly as a casual call. However, do not
let the significance unnerve you. It is important that you remain
cool and confident throughout the duration of the telephone interview,
as this will do wonders to your performance!
The interviewer wants to evaluate your communication skills
The primary concern of the interviewer, during a telephone interview,
is to judge you by your communication skills. How well do you
communicate on the telephone, where you cannot see your interviewer?
Do you seem uncomfortable since you cannot see the interviewer's
reactions? Do you sound confident, qualified, interested and enthusiastic
despite the absence of non-verbal cues from the person at the
other end? Or are you left stuttering and groping for words, distraught
by occasional awkward silences during the telephone call?
These are issues that you need to keep in mind during the telephone
How can you improve the way you communicate on the telephone?
Can you change the way you speak overnight just for an interview?
Think through your answers to improve the way you communicate
on the telephone
Improving the way you communicate on the telephone is not just
how you speak and your accent. What is crucial is what you say
i.e. the content of your answers. You can definitely make a difference
to your answers by a certain degree of smart preparation.
Your preparation should involve thinking through certain questions
that you could be asked with regard to your resume, and how you
could possibly answer them. This does not mean that you should
memorise canned and standard answers, but just that you draw up
a list of anticipated questions, and think through how you would
answer them. You could jot down points for each answer or just
write a few key words to clarify your thought flow.
This will eventually help you in the actual telephone interview
by reducing the time taken to answer questions, will ensure that
the answers are brief and to the point, will reduce unnecessary
gaps and long silences at your end. In addition, it will also
indicate to the interviewer that you are a thinking person with
clear career plans and are seriously interested in the position
at the employer organisation.
If you get caught off guard because you had not thought through
a list of anticipated questions, your answers would tend to be
long, lacking focus and you would come across as a confused individual,
which is definitely not what you want the interviewer to perceive.
Some of the questions that you can anticipate are:
For any questions relating to how you would handle a problem
or crisis situation at work, remember to use an analytical and
structured format for your answer i.e. problem definition-solution-implications.
Keep your answers short and to the point
Avoid verbosity and lengthy detailed explanations in your answers.
Stick to what you have been asked. Do not get into a long preamble
before you get to the actual answer. This will show clarity of
thought and can be achieved by your preparation.
For example, to answer the question-"Tell us about yourself"-
you may have a lot of information to give but you will need to
prioritise. You could either describe yourself in a few adjectives
to cover your strengths and weaknesses, or you could give a brief
outline of your current employment and your career objectives
etc. What you say should be prepared before hand so that it ensures
that your answer is short and to the point.
Your telephone interview could vary from a duration of 5-10
minutes to half an hour or longer. Prepare answers to as many
questions that you can think of because there is no fixed duration
for the telephone call. The longer the interview takes does not
necessarily mean a good interview, similarly a short interview
does not necessarily mean a bad interview over the phone. It depends
on what your answers were and how you delivered them over the
phone. Just remember to keep your answers crisp, concise and focussed.
Speak clearly and slowly
Regarding your style of delivering your answers, try and speak
clearly and slowly. Be articulate. You have to rely on the interviewer's
listening skills to evaluate what you say, so do not take any
chances in messing up at your end. You have to be sure that the
interviewer has heard and understood what you say, so initially
you may need to be careful about the pace at which you speak.
However, do not concentrate on it so much that you forget what
you were talking about!
Your voice should sound pleasant, friendly and enthusiastic
Since the interviewer cannot see you, your tone of voice is important
in making an impression on him. Try to sound enthusiastic. Smile
even though you cannot be seen, because you will be surprised
how smiling can improve the way you sound on the telephone! It
will automatically give your voice a friendly tone!
In most interviews on the telephone, there may be only one interviewer
at the other end. However, in some cases, the interview may be
a conference call where a number of interviewers fire questions
one after the other. Sounds unnerving, but don't lose heart! Just
follow the basics- Speak to each person in the same pleasant way,
as you are not aware of the hierarchy at this stage! Answer the
person who asks the question and follow this for each further
question. If you can catch the names of the interviewers if they
introduce themselves, try and remember them or quickly jot them
down so you can address the individuals personally. This is not
absolutely necessary- if you do it right it will work for you,
but if you mix up the names and voices of the interviewers, it
can be extremely embarassing! Use this tactic only if you are
good with matching names to voices over the phone!
Be positive in what you say
You should approach your answers in a positive way i.e. do not
criticise your former employer or give a negative picture of why
you want to leave your current job. You are obviously looking
for a change because you are unhappy with your existing job, but
you can still be diplomatic about the reasons why!
Give the real reasons, but put it across in a positive way e.g.
why you feel the need to move on in your career etc. And if you
are looking for a change because you cannot get along with your
present boss, there is no guarantee that you will get a better
boss in your new job! Be sure why you are changing jobs- delving
deeper into your career plans will give you more convincing reasons
for why you want to quit your existing job.
Ask questions to show interest in the job you have applied
To avoid just a one-sided conversation on the telephone, where
you just speak when spoken to, if there is an opportunity, you
could ask the interviewer certain questions about the organisation
or the job that you are being interviewed for.
For example, you could clarify the responsibilities that your
job will entail, the number of people working in the group/department
or team that you will be joining. You could also ask what your
immediate priority would be if recruited, in terms of a problem
that the organisation is currently facing in that area, or any
project that you may need to initiate as soon as you join.
This will just go to show that you are a serious candidate for
the position, and that you are really interested in the job.
Try and avoid initiating any salary talk unless the interviewer
brings it up. Salary negotiations are better discussed at a later
date. Right now it is more important that you convince the interviewers
to short-list you for the next stage in the selection process,
rather than worry about the salary you will be getting!
Keep important papers accessible near the telephone
Since you may receive your telephone call without warning, it
would help if you kept important papers within easy reach of the
telephone. As you cannot be seen, you could quickly glance at
the papers for any assistance that you may need in answering questions
that you had not anticipated. Keep papers such as your resume,
the cover letter and any other information that you may have researched
on the employer such as company size, market share, turnover,
job responsibilities etc., easily accessible near the telephone.
Also keep a paper and pen or pencil handy to jot down any points
or names that you may need to, during the course of the telephone
You can use the fact that you cannot be seen to your advantage
in terms of referring to your prepared points or resume to assist
you in your answers. However, please do not be in a situation,
where you have a friend or relative prompting you as this could
turn out to be disastrous. It could even may you hesitate or stumble
over words while answering questions and could get you thoroughly
confused! It is best to be cool and think on your feet to answer
surprise questions. Your preparation should have taken care of
other questions and answers so that you did not need to refer
to anything anyway!
Ensure that there are no distractions such as the blaring noise
of the TV set or anything else at home, while the interview is
Follow these guidelines and then look forward to a good telephone