Career Article 167:
By Tamara Dowling, CPRW
Many employers conduct telephone interviews to screen candidates for basic qualifications. It is also an alternative when it is not practical to invite an out-of-area candidate to the office.
Telephone interviews can be challenging because it is more difficult to gain rapport with the interviewer because you cannot see the interviewer's non-verbal reactions and cues. Conversely, the interviewer cannot see your enthusiastic expressions or professional appearance. This places all the weight on your phone manners, clarity of speech, voice tone and the content of your answers.
Here is a quick tip list for excelling at a telephone interview:
- Treat the phone interview as you would a face-to-face interview.
- Select a quiet, private room with a telephone in good working condition.
- Conduct a mock telephone interview with a friend to gain feedback on your voice quality and speech.
- Before the interview, prepare talking points for the call including value you bring to the company and specific questions.
- Arrange the following items: your resume, cover letter, copy of application if you submitted one, highlights of corporate information and brief talking points.
- Dress in business attire.
- Breathe deeply and relax. Speak slowly, clearly and with purpose.
- Smile, it changes your speech and the person on the other end can sense it.
- Write down the full names and titles of each call participant.
- Take notes when appropriate.
- Be courteous and try not to speak over the interviewer. If you do, apologize and let the interviewer continue.
- Support your statements with detailed examples of accomplishments when possible. It is easy for someone to get distracted on a phone call, so paint a vivid picture to keep the interviewer interested.
- Explain any pauses in your speech to ponder a question or take notes.
- If you think of a question or comment while the interviewer is speaking, jot a note on your talking points list, so you remember it later.
- During the interview, if the interviewer inadvertently answers a question from your prepared list, cross it off. If you forget and ask it, it will seem as if you were not listening.
- Offer to provide additional information or answer other questions.
- Use your talking points list of specific skills and accomplishments; cross them off as you work them into the conversation. At the end, if you have some uncrossed items, you might say something like, "I thought you might be interested to know I led a major conversion project, quite similar to what you are planning. I managed a $2.5 million budget and completed it 45 days early, saving over $48,000."
- Before ending the call, be sure you know the next step in the process, and offer to provide any additional information needed.
- Do not hang up until the interviewer has hung up.
- Promptly send a formal follow-up / thank you letter, just as you would for a face-to-face interview.