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Telephone Interviews: Questions and Answers

By Edited Jul 10, 2015 2 2

The telephone interview has become an ever increasingly important feature in the employment process, as it allows the business to gain a greater insight into your business related knowledge and especially your communication skills. There is also the obvious factor that it is saving the company money, as the time of face-to-face interviews gets reduced.

However, even though there has been a significant rise in the number of telephone interviews, the practice and preparation for them hasn't. Too many people are lacking the right mannerisms and don't know how to come across as  compelling and impressive when giving an answer to a question in a telephone interview.

Before getting into the common telephone interview questions and answers that are efficient, you need to make sure that you are actually ready for it. Also it is important to note that your telephone interview is likely to berecorded, they are likely to tell this in the actual telephone interview however.

How to Prepare for a Telephone Interview

  • Do some light research into the telephone interview that the company do online, you might be able to find some kind of hints and heads up with the type of questions they ask, how the telephone interview is structured and what answers they are looking for. Note: However, it is important to not rely on this information as the company may have changed it since and you don't know if it comes from a trustworthy source.
  • Have your stationery ready, have pens that actually work. Make sure you have enough paper to write down quick notes, also be ready to note down the name of your interviewer as soon as they introduce themselves, in case you forget, as you will want to be referring to it throughout the interview (it's polite).
  • Get some practice in, get a friend or someone who might have some kind of interviewing experience or try and find a script online and get them to go through it with you, it will provide you with not quite the same experience but it is certainly better than being thrown right in the deep end. But it will only work if you take it seriously, I would really try and enact it to make it feel like the real thing, so that means doing a lot of the preparation for it and remember practice makes perfect.
  • Where are you going to be with the call? I doubt you should be doing it in a place that is loud with many distractions. Plan for no disturbances, this telephone call is important and you don't want to keep them waiting while you shoo the dog out of the room. It is also advisable that you are using a landline, you don't want your battery or mobile service to cut out on you.
  • Have your CV to hand or near by in case they ask for you to elaborate around your employment history or they want to confirm details with you, you never know you might suddenly have a mind blip and forget where you live. Have all this information out in front of you, so you can get access to it effectively. Also if you have any questions that you are going to ask (and you do as this shows you are interested and inquisitive, try to make them open ended e.g. 'What would the typical working day look like, if I were to carry out this role?' but don't  ask too many though as the interviewer is on a time limit) be sure to make a note of them to ask, generally at the end of the interview, they will probably ask if you have any questions.
  • A great technique to carry is out is to look for buzz words that can be found on the company websites and more specifically the job description, highlight these buzz words and script potential aspects of your CV to match these words. For example the job description might have asked for someone who has strong 'leadership skills' you would then provide them with an experience that acts as evidence for you having strong leadership skills, as your answer to a question like 'What are your strengths?'.
  • Another thing you need to have down in front of you is your notes from the detailed research that you have carried out into the company make sure you know the company inside out (or at least as well you can) the name of the CEO, their business objectives etc. Make sure these notes are clear and well structured so you know exactly where to look to reference a fact if needs be.
  • A few little tips - people are often advised to stand up during an interview to offer your voice more projection and dress as if they were actually going for a face-to-face interview to give you a psychological boost of importance. Another one is to try and get a hands free headset, some people may find they are able to articulate better when they 'speak with their hands'. If you feel that you suffer from anxiety and nervousness it might be an idea to try out natural remedies, but get in touch with your doctor before hand. If you feel like you need to improve your articulate skills there are some great courses out there and try books like famous Dale Canerige 'The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking' - really awesome book. Also try to keep smiling during your telephone interview it will come across in your voice and what you say, it will convince yourself that you are in fact happy. Oh and don't forget to breath, be clear and and take it easy, don't rush! But also don't take too long, awkward silences can be negative and so aim for your answers not to be stretching the four to five minute mark (like I said above your interview has a time limit). Remember to disagree with objections as well.
  • Have a little script on how to introduce yourself (more on this below), I would also script out the telephone interviews questions and answers that will come later, but the trick is to try and not to sound too automated like you are reading a script, you need to try and appear natural, you can do this by not actually writing it word for word, but have lengthy key points to refer to.
  • Basically 'keep a cool head' and think, think about exactly what you are saying (refrain from abbreviations and not making sense) and how you are saying it (be confident and enthusiastic) and generally be polite, so remember your P's and Q's.
  • Don't only use this as a source for tips on preparation on how to carry out telephone interviews for questions and answers, but other sources online, as well as books that are dedicated to it, such as the highly rated 'Essential Phone Interview Handbook'.

    The Common Telephone Interviews Questions and Effective Answers

    'Please, can you tell me more about yourself?'

    Like I have said above it is probably a good idea to have a little script of key features and words prepared for this likely opening question. The trick here is to not answer this question personally (e.g. you have four brothers), it is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you have strengths that are well suited to the job. So you can call upon past work experience, what kind of important tasks that you carried out, and how you excelled at it and enjoyed it. Then finish it off by telling them what you are looking for, and that just happens to be the job post (again using some of the buzz words in the job description) that company is offering. This will take some while to get right, so make sure you have a few practice runs and give it a good looking over, try and find some quality examples online as well, I know the book above certainly goes into some good detail with great examples on this particular question.

    'Your strengths and your weaknesses? 

    This probably has to be the most commonly asked question in an interview and also the one that leaves most people struggling on exactly how to go about answering this in a telephone interview. There tends to be two ways that are suggested to go about this, in both ways you make your strength work related e.g. you pay attention to the detail, then this is where the opinions differ you either turn your weakness into a strength as well e.g. you hate to see things uncompleted therefore you need to finish a task. Which some argue that you come across looking a little idiotic or you can go and say that you have a minor weakness e.g. your low level of computer competency, but you are improving you are strengthening your weaknesses, so in this case you could be taking up IT lessons to improve your ability and you are showing initiative that you recognise your own strengths and weaknesses and doing something about them, Personally I would take the latter option.

    What responsibilities did you have? What roles did you undertake? 

    There is also likely to be some kind of question that is related to your previous job and employment history, the trick here is (with the CV you have to hand) is to try and show off some kind of record that you have set (it helps to use facts and numbers) or try to be somewhat impressive. For example - "In my past role as Assistant Manager I was responsible for hiring and human resources, and during my time there the store hit national records for the lowest turnover of staff". Be sure to also feature responsibilities that are corresponding over on to this job, so if you need to be able to carry out presentations make sure you mention you have had experience in your last job of carrying out presentations etc. Again looking for the buzz words for your answers, and be sure to use the exact buzz words they state.

    What do you know about this company?

    Now this should be a question where your answer should rock! You have done all the research into the company, their background, their clients, their CEO, their department structure, what things you have in common with them (e.g. their policies on making their company green, and how you are also involved in promoting a greener world). The more research you do the easier the question should be to answer, I would advise against making it scripted as they are likely to ask you something specific (likely to be around your department) so I would have the information in keywords available to you allocated in categories  (like I have mentioned above) so it is right there in front of you with little hesitation. If you revise it well enough you won't need the information in front of you and it will also come about more naturally in conversation, rather than having the hesitation of you want to refer to facts.

    For more Telephone interview and questions I would advise you check out books like the one above, and you that also carrying on searching online not just for tips on how to carry out telephone interview questions but also face-to-face ones also, as the same type of questions are likely to be asked.  



    Sep 6, 2011 10:22am
    These are great tips, especially the headset one.
    Sep 6, 2011 10:31am
    Thanks a lot, my sister is a Phone Interviewer so I got a lot of the tips from her.
    Sep 6, 2011 10:32am
    This comment has been deleted.
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