Telephone interviews – how to cope with them

by | 07.09.20

Nowadays because of social distancing telephone interviews in the first instance are really, really common. So you need to be prepared. Unfortunately unlike  a normal face to face or even video link interview you cannot rely on body language when you are communicating over the phone so its important that you put a lot of thought into the tone you use and provide clear, helpful answers to questions you are asked. The advantage of a telephone interview though is unlike in-person ones you have the ability to refer back to notes. We would advise you to definitely plan your answers to common interview questions that way you can’t be caught out. You are prepared. This will give you an edge and hopefully win you a proper interview. Here are some tips on common questions and the answers employers want to hear:

Tell me about yourself?

This is a work related question, the employer doesn’t want to know your height, shoe size and favorite tipple. They want to know about your work background. You should use this time to explain your experience, what you currently or recently have been doing and what makes you qualified for their role. You can throw in a few personal details such as where you live but focus on your professional experience.


Describe yourself?

Again you are not being asked what you look like. This is not a personal question it is a work related question. The question is very similar to “tell me about yourself”  but instead of focusing on your experience and previously held positions, talk about your skills and qualities . Consider what strengths are needed for the position you are applying for and promote these  ie “I love anything related to figures and am highly numerate” or “I pride myself on being able to communicate well at all levels”, get the idea?


Why are you applying for this role?

Another way this question could be asked is “why are you applying for this position”. Whatever answer you give to this question will tell the interviewer whether or not you are serious about the role and have genuine interest in pursing the position. To answer the question use details listed in the job description that made you apply in the first place or how the job aligns to your current career goals. The wrong answer is “ I need a job”


Why do you want this job?

You might be asked this question in order for the interviewer to understand more about your current situation. When explaining why you want the job remember to stay positive about your current / last employer. Go back to why you think you are a right fit, how your previous experience aligns with what the employer is looking in and how you believe you can bring a lot to the role. The wrong answer here is “I don’t know”


Tell me what you know about the role?

The reason you could be asked this question is so that the interviewer can assess how much research you’ve done. It will also tell them whether you’ve taken the time to carefully read their job description. It’s a good idea here to basically go over their job description ie: “I understand you are looking for a receptionist to manage your reception area and deal with incoming telephone enquiries, it sound very much like the type of duties I am use to handling that’s why I applied for this position”


Why do you want to work here?

This is a very common interview question basically its so the employer can establish whether or not you have researched the Company, what motivates you and whether your values align with those of the business. What you need to do before getting on the phone is visit the employers website, get a good understanding of the products or service they provide. Read their mission statement. Establish who their clients are. Get to know them so that when you are asked this question you can tell them exactly what you like about them, their products and their corporate ethos and how you would be proud to represent them in some capacity.


Why are you looking for a job?

Employers will always ask you this question to see if there are any red flags about your employment situation. If you are currently employed but are just looking to move on simply explain why. You should make your answer focused on your career and not personal reasons ie: I hate my boss, the office is dirty, I’d like to work more local to home. If you’ve been made redundant which is really really common at the moment to be honest, but tell the employer how many people in total were let go and that you weren’t singled out.


What are you passionate about?

Understanding what motivates you might help an employer decide whether you might be a good fit for the position. If you are passionate about helping people for example and the role you have applied for has little interaction with others then clearly the job is not going to be right for you. To answer this question, think of broad ways you are motivated both in and out of work. Consider how your passions might align with the role. For instance if you are a gym bunny tell the employer this and explain how disciplined and dedicated you are to keeping fit and how discipline and dedication are important qualities in the workplace

What are your salary expectations?

The reason you are being asked this question is to ensure that your salary requirements are in line with what the Company are paying. It also helps and employer to decide whether you are over or under qualified for the role. The best answer you can give is the salary at which the job has been advertised or slightly below. Never try to negotiate a salary at this point . you can’t negotiate over nothing and you haven’t been offered the job yet. Be sure you only apply for jobs you can afford to take. Salaries at this point of time are rarely flexible.

Test or scenario questions

During your phone interview you may be asked to perform a simple test or respond to a scenario of some sort. They may be looking for something in your answer like how you think under pressure. Listen carefully to what you are being asked and take a few seconds to consider your answer. Always be honest. For instance if you are asked how would you deal with an irate customer – a good answer is “the first thing I would do is to establish where we had gone wrong, what had made them so angry in order that we could resolve the issue”


Are you attending other interviews?

It is not a good idea to say “no”, you don’t want to look like a loser! Even if this is the only interview you have managed to get in the last 3 months you don’t need to tell the person interviewing you that. Under no circumstances should you appear desperate. A good answer to this question is that you are awaiting the outcome of several application you have made. This is not a fib, I’m sure you are awaiting outcomes.


When can you start?

One key piece of information employers may need upfront is when you would be able to start with them. They might be looking to fill the position quickly, so if you can not start for another month or two they may need to look for other candidates,. Think before your interview and carefully consider the soonest date you will be able to start. Review your current situation. Do you have to work notice? Do you have childcare in place? Do you have a holiday booked in the near future? An employer asking this question could be giving you a buying signal, after all the questions is only relevant if they are interested in employing you.

Having a successful interview basically is all about preparation, if you are not prepared in this market you are simply not going to get the job. You have a lot competition so its important that you stand out. Be friendly, be pleasant, give a little of yourself during the interview and hopefully you will be selected for the next stage.


Good luck