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How to handle phone interviews

Thursday, July 2, 2009
How to be successful at phone interviews. Image: Getty

Top five phone interview tips

  • Don't mumble.
  • Avoid awkward pauses.
  • Don't chew gum, drink or eat.
  • Be positive, and sound enthusiastic at all times.
  • Take the telephone call as seriously as you would a face-to-face interview.

More information


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By Hannah Nicholas
MSN NZ Money writer

Whether you're applying for a job overseas (and therefore can't attend an interview in person) or are being interviewed over the phone as part of a company's recruitment process never fear, we'll show you how to come out on top.

Be prepared
Even if it's just a quick chat to vet your experience and expertise for the position, come to the call prepared. Know your résumé inside out and be sure to have notes matching your experience to the key criteria of the available position. Use the opportunity to ask any questions you may have and also to find out as much as you can about the company and the job on offer.

Part of your preparation is to find out what format the phone interview will take. Generally there are three types of phone interviews:

1. Information gathering: to gather more background information from you or to assess your interest in the position. This type of call often arises when your details have been passed on through a third person, for example, when you haven't applied through a formal job application process but rather a friend or former colleague has recommended you. Although you might think this call is informal, you should take it seriously.

2. Screening call: used by companies to narrow down the list of applicants for the position. May be quite quick in length (about 10 minutes) and are often conducted by the HR manager on behalf of the person hiring. In this situation you really need to get across your skills, experience and interest in the position in a short space of time.

3. In-depth interview: (same as a face-to-face interview) and in most cases used when the interviewee can't get to the company's offices. Prepare just as you would for a formal meeting (except of course you don't need to worry about your wardrobe).

Do your research
Just as you would before attending a face-to-face interview, be sure to do your research on the company. Visit their website, conduct an Internet search, read any company reports you can get your hands on and talk to anyone you know who has worked for them or has had professional experience dealing with them.

Sound positive and friendly
Since this might be your one chance to sell yourself, be sure to sound positive and friendly at all times. Remember how you come across, ie. what you say and how you sound will have a huge impact on your chances of getting the job. Answer all questions with confidence and a clear voice.

Practise your phone manner
If you aren't all that confident in speaking, practise how you will answer questions on the day; paying particular attention to your tone of voice. Practising will do wonders in boosting your confidence. On the day, follow the experts who recommend smiling throughout the interview and standing up to help boost your level of confidence. Try these out and see what works for you.

Organise your surroundings
Be sure to arrange yourself so you are in a comfortable and quiet location. The last thing you want is kids screaming in the background or your boss to cut in on the interview. In most instances it's best to take the call from a landline rather than a mobile phone.

Take notes
In case you're invited to another interview (and for your own reference) be sure to take notes throughout the conversation.

End on a positive note
No matter how you believe the interview has gone always end on a positive note, thanking the interviewer for their time and be sure to express your interest in the position one last time. Use the last few minutes to find out what the next stage of the process will be if the interviewer has not elaborated on this.

User comments
Great information giving positive skills, and pointing out negative issues to avoid.