Ten tips for telephone interviews

Follow The Gateway's top tips to succeed in this important part of getting a graduate job

Telephone interviews are popular with graduate recruiters as they're a swift and efficient form of assessment that suits a graduate marketplace where more highly-qualified and experienced undergraduates than ever before are applying for every position. And they're also a great way to assess your ability to communicate and build rapport over the phone, which is very important in most professional roles. So if you're invited to participate in one it's crucial that you prepare carefully and get ready to make an impact quickly.

1. Take it seriously

Don't be fooled into thinking that this part of the process will be more casual or less testing than a meeting in person. You need to prepare carefully and get yourself into the right frame of mind beforehand, just as you would do for any other form of assessment.

2. Know what's expected

As telephone interviews often function as a "quickfire round" at an early stage of proceedings, your assessor may follow a predetermined structure and have very specific objectives in mind for your conversation. So, if it's not clear to you, ask beforehand what the interview's going to cover. You'll give yourself the best chance of performing well and will be showing your enthusiasm for the job.

3. Get set on the day

Make sure you'll be in a quiet room where you're going to get good reception. Consider using a hands-free set so that you don't have to hold the phone for all of what could be a long conversation. You might also want to think about what clothes you're going to wear - a formal outfit might help get you into the mood, or perhaps you'd perform better in something super-comfortable.

4. Be ready

Double-check what time slot you've been given so you're ready for the interview when your mobile starts buzzing. Then make sure you answer the phone in a professional manner. And once you're connected, the interviewer might start with some small talk, or plunge straight in with a killer question - be ready for either.

5. Know your stuff

One advantage of a telephone interview over a face-to-face one is that you can keep important documents nearby and refer to them if necessary during the interview - and you should take advantage of this opportunity. However, you should never respond to a question by reading straight from your CV, application form or notes.

6. The right position

You don't have to sit awkwardly in a chair for the whole process. You might feel more confident if you walk around. Or standing in front of a mirror can help you to imagine the person on the other end of the phone.

7. Don't worry about awkward silences

If your interviewer pauses, they're probably just making notes, or gathering their thoughts. And if you need to pause, just say, so that your interviewer knows you're still on the line.

8. Don't say too much

You should answer questions fully and give plenty of evidence where necessary, but make sure you stick to the point. This principle applies to any interview, but is particularly important in a telephone interview because your interviewer is likely to only have a relatively short amount of time allocated to speak to you.

9. Ask for clarification if you need it

Without the benefit of body language, it can be hard to tell whether you've said enough, whether it's your cue to speak, or whether the interview is over, so if you're unsure about anything, just ask.

10. Smile!

They can't see it, but your interviewer will be able to hear it in your voice. It's sure to help you feel more positive and make a good impression.