How should I approach a phone interview?

To save time in the early stages, some employers assess candidates by phone before inviting them in.

There’s nothing strange about this, it merely saves time and costs and is a way of sounding you out before a more formal face-to-face interview.

As always, the key is to prepare for this as you would any job interview with a clear understanding of your accomplishments, goals and strengths and why you are applying for the job etc.

Getting prepared
If you’ve never done a phone interview, set up a mock interview with a friend, or ideally a friend of a friend that you haven’t met before.

Ask them to phone you with a selection of real interview questions so you can practice your answers and get feedback from them on your performance.

Try to find out the names of the people you will be speaking to, their job titles and any other information you can get hold of. List out any questions you have, or notes you have made. You may be nervous and these will be useful when you are suddenly asked to say something.

Always have your CV, cover letter and any supporting materials laid out in front of you. Searching for them whilst an interviewer is waiting on line is going to distract you from what they are saying.

Also, keep a notepad or diary handy (and a pen that works) so you can keep a note of key points, such as contact details and dates for the next round of interviews. Make a note of holidays you have planned, and any dates when you may not be available for a second interview.

Staying focused
Speaking on the phone doesn’t come naturally to everyone and many of us only use the phone for speaking to friends, not for business purposes. Try to answer clearly and without sounding too ‘chatty’.

It’s actually possible to hear when people are smiling so try to remain positive throughout your time on the phone – like you are genuinely excited to be given the opportunity to talk to the interviewer.

A telephone interview need not be a tense time, but it is a formal interview.

Callers can often detect whether you are really listening to them so cut out the distractions and go somewhere you can concentrate. Let family or friends know not to disturb you during the allotted time.

If you’re taking the call during office hours – try and find a local park or other quiet area. The last thing you want is for your current boss to hear you touting yourself to other employers.

If you’re at home, remember that your voice, and the way you sound, is affected by your posture; whether you are slumped in an armchair or sitting upright at a desk.

It’s a good idea to dress in your work clothes and imagine you are actually sitting in front of somebody – this will make you feel more business-like than sitting in your nightgown or tracksuit.

Follow these tips and your caller will have been given exactly what they want, a responsive and positive interviewee and someone who is worth inviting in to meet in person.