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Telephone Interview Tips
Article » KPO/BPO/Operations
Posted by : thedesk   May 10 2007
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for and take telephonic interviews
We at the careersdesk have observed that the telephonic interview as a mode of screening is increasingly becoming popular. It is an efficient and effective way for companies to screen potential candidates when the candidate pool is large and widely dispersed.

Recruiters use the phone interview as one of the initial methods to screen candidates in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. They are also used as a way to minimize the expenses involved in interviewing out-of-town candidates. These are also used in cases where all the people who need to interview the candidate are not in one location, e.g., some senior manager who needs to approve the hiring may be in the US even though the position / candidate is in India.

If you are a candidate, then your objectives from a telephonic interview are:
- To secure a subsequent face-to-face interview, and
- To obtain enough information to decide if you would like to proceed with the interview process.

While you are actively job searching, it is important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moments notice. You never know when a recruiter calls and asks if you have a few minutes to talk.

Here are a few tips which could help you preparing for and taking telephonic interviews.

Preparation for a telephone interview is as important as preparation before any other form of interview or meeting. The impression you create in the opening moments, and the manner with which you present yourself will determine whether or not you will be successful.
a) Wherever possible avoid using a cell phone. There could be problems of signal etc. Its better to provide the interviewer with a fixed line number. In fact, in some instances where the hiring manager is calling from abroad, some companies insist that a fixed line number be provided. In case you cannot provide a fixed line number make sure you are at a place where the signal quality is good and the cell phone is adequately charged. You should also turn call-waiting off so that your call is not interrupted.

b) Keep your CV ready. Since the recruiter is holding your resume, it would make you more comfortable if you keep the CV at hand and don’t need to scramble for it when the call comes through. The script for the phone interview is dictated largely by your resume. Like a regular interview, all statements on it must be justifiable, preferably with examples. Also make sure you have mailed the latest copy of the CV. If there is an update since the time of applying for a position, appraise them during the course of the interview, and fax/e-mail them a revised copy.

c) Avoid distractions, plan to be in a quite place. Shut out all background noise, such as children playing, the television etc.

d) Read up about the job and the company. Do know what job you are interviewing for. This is very important. If possible have a print out of the Job Description ready with you for the interview. Find out as much as you can about the company and the job. If your telephone interview has been arranged by a third party, you should receive much of this information from them. But in any case, do your own research - company websites are one of the best sources of information.

e) Prepare points which could be referred to, if required, during the interview. Points could be regarding a list of your specific experiences and skills that you wish to communicate, a list of your accomplishments, answer to the question – ‘tell me about yourself’, a list of questions about the company or position etc. that you want to find out about. Remember, though you don’t want your responses to sound scripted, you don’t want to fumble for important points either.

f) Keep paper and pen ready to take notes.

g) Make sure you do not have another appointment close to the interview---incase the interviewer needs more time.

h) For a technical interview, do your homework and practice answering some standard interview questions. Also, the Interviewer may ask more questions about their project requirements or your primary skill set. Be ready on these before the interview.

i) Try to anticipate the questions you'll be asked. For these questions you could jot down some points if you like to help you answer. Also if you can think of examples or can quantify accomplishments (e.g. increased sales by X percent, etc.) to drive home the point, it is ideal. By knowing what to say, you'll seem more confident, in control, organized and focused, all qualities that recruiters seek in candidates. Some questions which can be expected are:
i. Tell me about yourself! (Managers ask this not because they want the information (they already have your CV!), but because they want to listen to you, to find out how communicative you are, and how you sound. In any case you should be prepared to give a positive two or three minute summary of your professional career.)
ii. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
iii. Why are you looking for a change?
iv. Why did you change from your previous jobs. (Be clear on your reasons for leaving each position.)
v. What is your current salary?
vi. What do you know about our company?
vii. What are you looking for? What are your career goals?

j) Rehearse response to uncomfortable issues. There may be certain uncomfortable things in the CV, such as job hopping, being fired, gaps etc. Avoid weak excuses and never lie. Also, never criticize your former employers. Role-play and rehearse your responses to difficult or uncomfortable issues that may come up in the conversation.

a) Consider standing while on the phone. This common technique allows your voice to project and sound more confident. Your facial expressions will reflect through your voice. If you are smiling, you will sound interested. If you are frowning, you will sound disinterested.

b) Be a good listener. Avoid interrupting and let the recruiter complete his thought or question before you respond. Ask for clarification. The more information you can gather, the better you can respond. Don't interrupt the interviewer.

c) Address the interviewer by his title and surname unless asked to do otherwise. It shows respect and you could then be told to address the person by first name, after which you could do it. But don’t start by using the first name.

d) Don't smoke, chew gum, eat, or drink.

e) Be factual in your answers. Never, lie, mislead, fudge or say something that you can not absolutely support. The interviewer is looking for someone to become a part of their company. They will check out everything.

f) If you don't know, simply say that you don't know. If you cannot answer certain questions, admit to the interviewer frankly and offer to do more research on the subject.

g) Avoid ah, er, hum. This habit is especially noticeable on the telephone. This takes practice. So practice if possible. You could record your voice to see how you sound.

h) If asked about your salary expectation. Usually compensation issues come at the end of the interviewing cycle. Most HR professionals suggest that you should not ask about money, benefits etc. at this stage of the process. The proper time for that would be after the “face-to-face” interview. If you are asked about your current compensation, be specific and precise about the base, bonus, stock options, car allowance, etc. If asked, "What salary are you looking for to make a change?" one answer is, "My current package is a base of Rs. Xx and bonus of XX%, and I am hoping you will make me a fair offer based on my experience and the value I can bring to your company." Alternatively you could say that you would like to understand the role, expectations etc. clearly before quoting a figure.

i) Make a note of any questions you would like to ask the interviewer prior to the interview. Towards the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Ask about things important to you, especially if your decision whether to proceed depends upon the answers. Have these questions written down prior to the interview. You could prepare questions based on the position's responsibilities, goals of the division, cultural style of the company, or the interviewer's background if they are the hiring manager. Otherwise, ask broad questions such as 'What training will be given?', 'What is the career path?'. Asking good questions illustrates that you are already thinking seriously about the position and joining the company. Potential employers expect to be asked questions and welcome opportunities to talk about their companies and/or their own backgrounds.

j) Thanking the caller and expressing interest at the end of the interview. At the end of the interview thank the caller for his or her time and say that you're interested (assuming you are) and want to pursue the matter further. If the interviewer has not asked you about your schedule or availability for the next step, it may be a good idea to ask, "What would the next step be in the process?" and “What is the hiring timeline for this position?”

k) Confirm contact information. It is a good idea to send the interviewer a thank you note/email after the interview. If you don't already have it, be sure to ask for the interviewer's exact title and name spelling, along with the postal/email address so that you can send the note.

After a phone interview, follow with a thank you note which reiterates your interest in the job. If your telephone interview has been arranged by an agent/recruitment consultant, telephone them to let them know about the interview. They should be able to find the next steps / feedback, on your behalf.