Interviews aren’t necessarily about perfecting your handshake or making sure you are well presented. There are many instances in which employers use telephone interviews before giving candidates the chance to prove themselves face-to-face. For obvious logistical reasons, telephone interviews are a popular means of interviewing candidates who wish to work as expatriates.
The benefits of telephone interviews for the employer include the ability to delegate them to a lower level (cheaper) employee, their cost-effectiveness and the speed at which they can be carried out. There are also a number of benefits for you as an applicant: no travel arrangements are required, there’s no need to iron your best shirt and no last minute panic when you can’t find the right office!
Despite these obvious advantages, this does not mean that you can afford to put any less effort into telephone interviews than you do in face-to-face ones; making mistakes at this stage can still put an end to your progress. There are a number of steps you can take to increase your appeal to employers during telephone interviews, some are more apparent than others but all are worth knowing.
The application process
Before you get to the telephone interview stage of your job search, create an applications record containing details of all the positions you have applied for, including company names, contact details, information about the organisations and job specifications for the roles you have applied for. Keep this record next to the phone so it can be quickly referred to if a potential employer contacts you unexpectedly.
Remember that potential employers might have to leave you voicemail messages or correspond by email before they are able to speak to you, particularly because of time zone differences, so create a professional impression from the outset: save comical email addresses for friends and family, sticking to a straightforward firstname.lastname address and make sure your answer phone message sounds professional – no blasts of loud music!
Preparation is just as important for a telephone interview, as it is for a face-to-face one. Think about ways to expand on points you have made in your CV, covering letter or application form and prepare a list of questions you would like to ask. Keep everything together in your applications file, this way you will remain alert and interested throughout the conversation.
Conducting a mock interview with a friend or with your recruitment consultant is an excellent way to improve your telephone interview technique. By receiving honest, constructive feedback about how you come across over the phone, you will be able to take actions where necessary to overcome areas of weakness. Recruitment consultants are well placed to be able to offer this type of support, as they have an excellent understanding of what employers are looking for.
Getting it right
Telephone interviews might allow you to discuss your skills and qualities in comfortable surroundings, but receiving a call unexpectedly might be unnerving and is likely to mean you are unprepared. Your applications file can help in such circumstances, but if it is a bad time for you, simply explain this to the interviewer and politely ask if you can reschedule the conversation for a later date. Working with a recruitment agency can help avoid situations like this, as they will coordinate a suitable window or schedule for telephone interviews between you and prospective managers.
While a smart appearance and good body language are unlikely to substantially affect your success during a telephone interview (other than perhaps putting you in the right frame of mind), what you say and how you say it has an incredible influence. Your tone of voice must convey confidence and enthusiasm and project a positive impression to the listener. Make sure you speak slowly and enunciate clearly, taking a moment to collect your thoughts if necessary. Smiling will also enhance the way you come across. Try not to talk in a monotone voice and consider language differences as well as the quality of international phone lines when speaking.
When the interview takes place, make sure you are in a quiet place away from distractions. It is important to stay focused on your objectives. Your aim should be to gather the information you need to decide whether or not you wish to continue with your application and give the interviewer enough information to answer their questions and persuade them that you are worth interviewing face-to-face.
How to close
Finally think about how to close the interview effectively. Your final outcome could be agreeing on a time, date and place for a face-to-face meeting: once you have done this, thank the interviewer for their time and then begin your preparation for the next stage. Alternatively, for expatriate positions particularly, a telephone interview alone could result in an offer, in which case you must be prepared to either negotiate your salary or rate, or refer your interviewer back to your recruitment consultant, who will negotiate on your behalf.
This article was written by Michael Wallace, Recruitment Manager, NES Overseas www.nesoverseas.com