ANNOUNCEMENT : This company is now wholly owned by its employees. Further details here...

020 7432 8855 (advertisers only)

Tips for telephone interviews


Telephone interviews can be just as intimidating as those where you are face-to-face with your potential employer. They’re certainly a different kettle of fish but they need just as much preparation as any other part of the recruitment process if you want to secure the job.

With the high volume and fast pace of recruitment, telephone interviews are a large part of retailers’ hiring processes these days so it’s vital that you know how to handle them. This is a chance for the recruiter to find out whether you’re serious about your application and whether or not to take you to the next stage.

This is a chance for you to show your competence, enthusiasm for the job and personality in order to persuade the recruiter to invite you in for a face-to-face interview.

Be prepared at all times!

Most of the time, phone interviews will be scheduled so you should have ample opportunity to prepare, but if you’re looking for a job, every time the phone rings you have to be prepared for the possibility that it might be a potential employer.
Make sure that you have a professional-sounding answerphone greeting and don’t let other people answer your phone. If you get a phone call from a number that you don’t recognise, make sure you answer the phone politely and professionally.

Know the answers

Although each company will use a telephone interview to gauge different things about a job seeker, there are some questions that will almost certainly come up in a phone interview.  Having prepared the answers pre-prepared will considerably boost your chances of getting to the next stage.

Common questions include: Why do you want to work for this company? Can you give me an example of when you delivered good customer service? Can you describe a difficult situation at work and how you dealt with it? and what skills can you bring to the business?

Strike a balance

It is easy when you’re on the phone to slip into an informal manner, but you must keep in mind that the person on the other end will be deciding whether you get a face-to-face interview or not, so make sure you keep an air of professionalism. By all means be warm and establish a rapport, but don’t get too over-familiar.

Control your environment

Make sure that, when the recruiter calls, you’re in a quiet place with no distractions, where you know you’ll get good signal if you’re on a mobile and have a copy of your CV as well as a pen and paper to hand in order to make notes. Keep pets and small children out of the room where possible and turn off the TV.

Refresh your telephone manner

Many people find talking on the phone harder than face-to-face. It’s tricky to judge the other person’s mood and the general tone of the conversation without normal visual cues, and when that conversation could potentially lead to a job offer there is an added pressure.

If you’re not totally confident with phone conversations, therefore, it might be best to get some practice in with a friend before the interview.

Even if you don’t normally don’t have a problem speaking on the phone it may well be worthwhile having a practice, or even recording yourself to see how you come across. Do you speak too fast, too quietly, too loudly or too much? Do you leave long pauses? Do you have any habits such as saying “um” or “like” or “yeah” too much? Reviewing your telephone manner will help you come across in the best light.

Try these tricks

It may surprise you how much can impact your voice and how you come across on the phone. For example, some people like to dress smartly for a telephone interview as they feel more professional and this can come across to the interviewer. Smiling has also been proven to change how people come across on the phone for the better.
Also, make sure you have a glass of water to hand so your throat is clear and try to avoid clearing your throat too much.

Avoid the #1 pitfall of interviews

Any professional recruiter will tell you that approximately 95% of people who fail their interview do so because of one mistake and that is not doing enough research into the company.

Whether in a face-to-face or telephone interview, the recruiter will want to know that you’re applying to their company because you really want to work for them. The only way you can prove this is to do a lot of research into the company, its culture, history, store portfolio and products and then show this knowledge to your interviewer.

Things to remember

Remember that this is just the first stage in a process. If the interviewer found you to be professional, competent and prepared then hopefully you will get to the next stage. This isn’t the time to ask about salary, training, start dates or holiday allowance. If you get invited to a further interview, you can discuss the role and the company more in-depth.

Don’t be afraid of any pauses once you’ve answered each question. If you’ve given a comprehensive answer the person on the other end of the phone will be making notes so give them a moment to do so without bombarding them with waffle. If they need more information, they’ll prompt you.

After the interview, send a short email thanking them and confirming your interest. Don‘t send it as soon as you get off the phone, but send it before the end of the day.