I’ll bet most of you are under the illusion that beyond the application of your resume, your first opportunity to make a great impression on your prospective employer is when you step inside the interview room. Wrong!! Recruiters only have so many hours in the day to assess applicants and telephone screening is a popular time saving tool helping them to identify the best candidates to represent their business.

Primarily the aim of the telephone interview is to select candidates that are likely to be the best fit for the company based on their personality, career history and attitude. Typically questions regarding your motivation for applying for the job, your interest in the role and the company, and what you can bring to the table over and above others, will be asked. You can expect to be probed on why you are looking to move on from your current role, what your career goals and salary expectations are, and if you have any preliminary questions for the interviewer.

What can make a telephone interview particularly challenging is that it’s not always scheduled. Recruiters can call you unexpectedly to commence their screening process. This is where you need to think quickly on your feet. Ask yourself; am I prepared enough to give a great impression and progress through to the face-to-face interview? And, is now the right time to be having this conversation? If you are across the position, the company and why you were attracted to the role in the first instance, you will probably feel confident in proceeding with the call. If you need to refresh your memory and prepare your responses more thoroughly, politely cite that now is not the best time to talk and could you schedule a time for later that day or next. Of course, you may simply be too tied up at that moment and again, will need to request a more suitable time to continue the conversation. Generally you can expect to have a twenty to thirty minute discussion about why it is in their interest to pursue the interview in the office.

The recruiter will take the opportunity to communicate some essential information; how the interview process will proceed, what the requirements of the job are and the opportunities the company offers. Remember, they want you to work for them so they will be upselling the organisation too. They will also be asking a series of predetermined questions. A uniform set of questions not only aids them in making a fair and consistent comparison across candidates, it will also help them to keep the interview to a time frame. This will make it easier for you to anticipate what will be asked and prepare responses ahead of time. They will also be taking notes. This will be to remind themselves later of your attributes when making a shortlist of candidates to bring into the office, or for someone else to make that decision. Hence, the person who interviews you may not be the only person you need to impress.

Now that you understand the importance of a memorable first impression, you can understand that preparation is the key to advancing through the recruitment process. And it begins with research. Know the job. What are the key criteria and how do you meet these? Know what is in your resume. You will be quizzed on its content. Check your voice mail message. If you need to change your greeting to a more professional spiel, do so immediately. You may not answer the first call from the recruiter, but you may leave a damaging first impression if your voicemail greeting is too casual or wacky. You can change your message back after you have landed the job. Needless to say, the potential of a telephone interview influencing your ability to land the job is high and you need take it seriously.

Through verbal and aural cues you will build a positive rapport with your prospective employer. Thus it is essential that you listen carefully to each question, responding only once the recruiter has finished speaking. You can hear a smile and gauge one’s energy over the phone, so be upbeat when answering. And use the recruiter’s name. Create the sense of a personal connection. You want them to advocate for you if they’re not the one deciding who to progress. And yes, too many pauses and stumbling over your words throughout will demonstrate that you are ill prepared…and perhaps not so serious about the role after all.

No doubt your interviewer will have put a lot of time and thought into the interview process, thus will be highly organised and prepared the moment they dial your number. You need to be too. To give yourself the best chance at putting a face to the voice, you need to ensure the moment is right and the environment is conducive for an important discussion. This is your career on the line. To leave a lasting impression, thank the interviewer for their time and consideration of your application and express your keenness not only for the role, but to meet…over a boardroom table!

Is that the phone I hear?…Ooh, are you ready?!

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