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First stage interviews by phone or Skype are very common these days. It’s a cost-effective way to screen candidates in the initial stages of a recruitment process.

Some of my clients find phone interviews harder than in-person ones, as they can’t see the interviewer’s reaction. At the same time, the first interview in many companies is always conducted on the phone, so it is good to be prepared!

Here are some tips that I hope will help you:

1. Make sure you won’t be interrupted, and be sure to charge your phone in advance. It’s happened to me a few times that a candidate’s phone battery died during the interview because they forgot to charge it. This doesn’t create a good impression.

2. Do your research and prepare your answers to typical interview questions, as you’d do for an in-person interview. Many phone interviews are just brief phone screens with a recruiter, to find out if you have the minimum experience required for the job. However, sometimes during this first interview, you might find yourself on the phone for an hour and are expected to answer detailed questions about your previous roles and achievements. Make sure you have relevant examples prepared using the STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Take time to think about your answers, and if you don’t fully understand the question, ask for clarification.

3. Smile when you talk, if you want to sound more confident and relaxed, make sure you smile when you talk. Are you being lively and enthusiastic? It won’t hurt to look into the mirror when on the phone. I sometimes spoke to candidates who sounded like if they had no energy on the phone at all and they did not seem enthusiastic about the role at all.

4. Moderate your pace through the beginning of the call. If you’re nervous, you might naturally talk quicker (or if you’re like me, you naturally talk quickly all the time!), so deep breathing before the interview will help you to slow down.

5. Don’t interrupt the interviewer. I’ve heard many hiring managers complain about that. You don’t want to sound like if you’re impatient for them to finish.

6. Be concise. One of my hiring managers told me a candidate took 25 minutes to answer two questions — we did not take her through to the next stage. You obviously don’t want to give one-word answers and you do need to elaborate and give examples, too much information is bad.

Another great thing about phone interviews is that you can have your notes (with info about the company or your examples) in front of you. Just make sure you’re not simply reading from the page in front of you, as you don’t want to sound too rehearsed.

Lastly, as you obviously can’t judge reactions in the same way as when you’re face-to-face with an interviewer, it might be useful to ask questions such as, “Do you want me to go into more detail?”

Remember to also ask them some good questions and send a thank you note after your interview to reiterate your interest in the role.


Written By
Margaret Buj is an interview and career acceleration coach who specializes in helping professionals get any job they want at their best ever salary. If you want to find out how recruiters read resumes, why you’re not getting hired, how to sell yourself successfully in a job interview and how to negotiate your best salary yet, you can download her free “You’re HIRED!” video course.

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