Phone Interviews: can you talk your way to success?

Many do not realise this, but the moment a potential employer contacts you by phone, you’re being interviewed. Your resume was impressive enough to get them to dial your number, but delivering a spiel over the phone that is enticing enough for them to invite you to a face-to-face interview is another skill again. So, gift of the gab or not, you need to be prepared.

Many employers engage a professional recruiter to find and short list quality candidates. The recruiter advertises the role, sifts through the applicants and identifies those most suited to the job. The next step is to contact them, clarify the details of their resume and gauge a little further information about them. Contact is almost always by phone. The impression you make on the recruiter will determine if you proceed in the recruitment and selection process. “Impression” is the key word. You need to impress and often there is no notice that the phone call is coming. So if you miss the call, ensure your phone message is professional. It too can make or break your chances to progress. Seems a little harsh, but when you are looking to separate quality candidates from each other, it is the little things that will stand out. On other occasions the employer themselves will phone you direct.

To tell you that you need to have done your homework on the employer seems like communicating the obvious. Yet so many fail to do this. Let me highlight something else that is blatantly obvious here…you’re on the phone, they can’t see you googling these details! Your cheat sheet can have you sounding like a long-term employee of the company, full of knowledge and aware of the direction the organisation is heading in. So if you have failed to prepare, there is still an opportunity for you to get through this stage of selection.

One key to nailing the phone interview is to make sure you are in a comfortable environment when chatting to your potential employer. Eliminate the noise by finding a quiet space you can feel relaxed and focused within is important. You don’t want to sound distracted. If need be, let the interviewer know that you can’t really talk at the present time. Often they expect to find you at work and are aware that it is not a place that you can openly discuss your job application. Arrange a more suitable time. If need be, use the extra time to prepare.

It is best to let the recruiter or employer speak first. They will generally expand on the information contained within the job advertisement and position description and let you know more about the role, its history and expectations, the team and organisational culture, challenges and future direction of the company. It is handy to have a pen and paper at the ready to take notes for when it is your turn to respond. Draw a correlation between your experiences and the needs of the organisation. Creating a common ground will help you to connect….’sounds familiar’….’ah yes, I overcame that exact situation by implementing a measure that minimised the arising of that situation…the time, cost and stress saved was worth an additional two percent to the bottom line’. Detailing both actions and results will have you ticking boxes. Keep your resume close for reference so that you don’t fail to emphasise any of your key accomplishments. You will have an opportunity to ask questions too, but remember, a recruiter may not be able to provide detailed responses to your questions about the company.

Don’t’ forget too that when you talk via the phone there are no visual cues. Smiling for example is a visual cue. Regardless of the fact that your interviewer cannot see you smiling, they can definitely hear it in your voice. So be aware that your body language can still be transmitted across soundwaves. Sit up straight or stand, and take a drink of water if your voice is faltering.

Closing the conversation can be awkward for some. You may need to practice if this does not come naturally to you. Again, having a cheat sheet prepared in advance can eradicate any clumsy goodbyes. At the very least you should thank the caller, tell them that you like the sound of the job and that you are confident that you could perform well in the role. It is important to verbalise your level of interest, particular if you are looking to move forward with your application, and let them know that you would like to meet. It is at this point that you can ask them what the next step is. Generally your interviewer will let you know immediately if they think it is worthwhile to proceed and nominate a time with you to do so.

A phone interview won’t often get you the job, but it can certainly end your chances of getting it. It is an age old method employers use to filter through applicants that is low cost and can narrow the pool of candidates for face-to-face interviews. Your goal is to be invited for an in-person interview. You have only your voice and your homework to get you there so leave nothing to chance, prepare for success the moment you hit the send button on that application!

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SJ Personnel offer recruitment and HR services to businesses and candidates throughout Geelong, Surf Coast, The Bellarine and western Victoria region

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