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Five tips to win a phone interview

A phone interview can seem like an informal first step in the hiring process, but it is an incredibly valuable opportunity to get your foot in the door and establish a good reputation. Our advice is to take this step as seriously as you would any final round interview.

At Robert Walters, we repeatedly see candidates underrating the importance of their performance on phone calls. Acing this first step is crucial – a great connection with HR can create an advocate for your candidacy within the organisation.

On the flip side, a less than stellar first phone conversation may stall the process before it’s even gotten started. 

Before you pick up the phone, here are our top 5 tips for making your next phone interview a success:

Remove distractions. It can be difficult negotiating phone interviews within the context of your current role and daily responsibilities. But, it’s extremely important to be in a distraction-free environment when on a call. Nothing derails your train of thought like coworkers listening in on your private calls or baristas yelling out orders in a coffee shop. It sounds silly, but physically positioning yourself with your back to windows and taking notes during the conversation can help you focus.

Have confident energy. Interviewers will be judging your communication skills by how you present yourself over the phone. You want to exude motivation and capability. They will be looking for your ability to connect interpersonally and judging how well you will work in a team. Demonstrate your can-do, get-things-done attitude. You definitely don’t want a potential new employer to sense any negativity or frustration you may feel toward your current employer or position. Focus on the opportunities and successes you have had. Be upbeat and don’t be afraid to highlight specific personal accomplishments. Wear your favorite outfit, stand up during the call if you feel yourself slowing down, and smile while you are talking.
A great connection during an initial phone interview with HR can create an advocate for your candidacy within the organization.

Be interested and engaged. Ask specific questions and demonstrate that you are eager to learn more about the organisation and the position. Frame these questions around the research you have already done on the role and the organisation. Don’t let any nerves or awkwardness be mistaken for disinterest. Even if it feels forced, make sure to reiterate your interest in continuing in the process before the call ends. Follow up with a brief thank you email and start the process of setting up the next conversation.

Prepare your story. Have a copy of your resume in front of you. Be able to explain your career history with exact dates and references without hesitation. Arm yourself with a few prepared scenarios that illustrate projects you’ve worked on, processes you’ve changed, initiatives you’ve led or problems you’ve solved. Have the basics jotted down to jog your memory so that you can tailor your answers to the specific questions asked. It will be well worth the time to rehearse these examples because you will use them in almost every interview you have on the phone or in person.

Motivate yourself. Job searching can be a frustrating and demoralising process. But, don’t let past disappointments dampen your enthusiasm for new opportunities. If you’re into that sort of thing, collect some motivational quotes, review an uplifting passage from your favourite author, listen to a Ted talk, or elicit a pep talk from a friend before your next interview. It’s always important to remember that being ‘rejected’ after a job interview is not a reflection on your personal and professional abilities. You’ll likely face multiple disappointments – and many more let downs than job offers over the course of your career. Focus on what you can control (like your attitude) and put any feedback you receive to use in your next phone interview. 

Robert Walters offer expert career advice. Contact us today at southafrica@robertwalters.com for your latest recruitment needs.  

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