How to shine on telephone interviewYou’ve done the hard part; you’ve written a professional CV, created a good LinkedIn profile and caught the attention of a prospective employer. They like the cut of your jib, and they want to find out more. First, however, they want to check your technical skills are up to the job of answering a phone, and that your communication skills are good enough to justify a face to face interview. A telephone interview is a great way for employers to screen out candidates who are great at CV preparation, but not so good at efficient and engaging dialogue.

Frequently, you won’t have any warning, and if you’ve been getting rejections, the first thing you’ll think when a company or agency calls you is that you’re being turned down. Stay positive, composed and keep an open mind; maintaining your own unflappable self-esteem and happy demeanour is a key part of the recruitment process, and there are many straightforward ways to optimise telephone interviews so they end in successful progression to the next stage.

1) Be confident and upbeat
An easy way to sound happy is to smile as you’re talking, even if you don’t really feel like it; a smile affects the timbre of the voice and, according to substantial research, your interviewer will perceive you to be more likeable and efficient. Relax, remember to breathe, and give positive, enthusiastic answers to questions; they want to hear commitment, motivation and an energetic proactivity.

2) Be a consummate professional
Don’t crack stupid jokes, or drink, or eat, or get distracted. Remove external sound distractions, in particular don’t leave the TV on. Focus carefully on what’s being asked and answer questions succinctly; the cardinal sin at this point is to be boring, and to drone on endlessly about detail. Concentrate on your strengths and achievements, and how they can benefit the potential new employer, and try not to talk for more than two or three minutes without stopping.

3) Get up, stand up
Like smiling, standing up and walking around affects the voice in various ways, increasing depth, clarity and gravitas. Try to avoid using filler words such as ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘like’ and try not to speak in an interrogative style, which is where your voice goes up at the end of every statement. Maintaining clarity, brevity and an engaging, upbeat styles is a crucial business skill. Practice with a friend, if necessary, as no matter how awkward role plays might feel sometimes, they can be very effective.

4) Keep your CV, LinkedIn profile, job description and job application in sight
During most of these interviews, you will be questioned on details in your application; it can be disastrous to get numbers wrong, or to freeze on an important question. Make sure you have a professionally written CV, full of relevant information, which you can use to answer any difficult or detailed questions. Make sure these things are to hand during the call, so that you don’t have to run off and find it. You need to seem well-organised and cool under pressure.

5) Two ears, one mouth
When your interviewer starts speaking, wait for them to get to the end of the question and whatever you do, don’t interrupt. Listen very closely; getting the wrong end of the stick from a simple question can be catastrophic for your chances. Demonstrate that you have excellent listening skills. The occasional ‘yes’ or ‘ok’ while they are speaking is fine – it shows you’re listening. As they’re wrapping up, hopefully they will tell you that you’re through to the next round, but if they don’t, it is an excellent idea to ask them if there is anything that might stop that happening. Sometimes, they might think you don’t have a skill that actually you do have; now is the time to make sure you’ve covered any objections.

Most importantly, always remain calm. Frequently interviewers will deliberately attempt to rile you up somehow, to assess your ability to cope under pressure. Don’t let them get you flustered, remember that it isn’t personal and smile generously at the tactic; it’s usually pretty obvious if you know to look out for it.

If you feel you need help preparing for future interviews, telephone, face-to-face or video interviews, City CV can help. Our talented team of professional CV writers and interview coaches have over 100 years of collective experience, across a wide range of sectors. To find out more about our professional interview coaching service and how we can better your chances of succeeding at interview, give us a call on +44 20 7100 6656 or send an email to enquiries@citycv.com.