I recently wrote about a telephone interview that had gone about as badly as it’s possible to go, both for the interviewer and the interviewee.(When Telephone Interviews Go Wrong)
Telephone interviews are generally not the first option, but can be useful in a few circumstances, and even then only when Skype is not an option:
It’s pretty hard to perform well in a telephone interview. Body language is a huge part of an interview, and with no visual cues from the other side of the table it’s hard to know what responses need to be clarified further. For those who aren’t confident verbal communicators (I’m looking at you, research scientists!) telephone interviews can be catastrophic.
So pick your instances carefully, and don’t set too much store in how a telephone interview goes. If you’re on the fence about someone, whether you’re the interviewer or the interviewee, give them a chance to impress you in person.
For the interviewer
It’s your job to take control of the interview and make sure it can go as well as possible. This is all about making the interviewee feel comfortable so that they open up, relax, and give you a good account of themselves and what they can do. Remember that you’re not there to give the candidate a grilling, but to recruit the best people. You’ll do this by understanding their strengths, selling your role and giving a good impression of you as an employer.
Interviewers often forget that they are talking to a real person, not a CV, and their confidence can be seriously knocked by an interview that goes badly. It is the interviewer’s responsibility to be conscious of their influence and impact. The interviewer will likely be far better accustomed to telephone interviewing than the interviewee, who will probably be nervous and unsure how to behave without visual cues. So be kind!
For the interviewee
For you, this might be a really big deal. For the interviewer, you may be one of many they’ll talk to that day. Don’t take it personally if it feels like you’re in the middle of a production line (you might be) and do everything you can to stand out.
Preparation is really important. You need to know why you’re being interviewed and by whom. It’s no use talking deep technology to a junior HR administrator. Get have a detailed briefing pack or job spec and research their website.
There’s a lot you can find out that will give you a feel for the sort of business you’re interviewing for, which should give you a steer as to what will be discussed during your telephone interview and what sort of language you should be using.
So… the phone rings, and you’re off! What should you expect? Well, a lot depends on the experience, style and goals of the interviewer. Not many are as bad as the one I’ve previously discussed. Most will make the effort to put you at ease, so take your cues from them, and make sure you have a discussion rather than a Q&A session.
When it’s all over, a good sign is that you’ve had a pleasant and relaxed discussion, and you put the phone down with a smile. Send a quick note to thank the interviewer for their time, and to the recruiter too if there is one, so they’ll know the conversation took place.