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5 ways to make a great over-the-phone first impression

Posted by: Nicola Batty
Company News

A phone call instead of a face-to-face interview? A chance to chat about myself from the comfort of my sofa, kicking back in my superhero pyjamas and watching This Morning out of the corner of my eye? Great, right?  Not quite.

In today’s increasingly busy world companies are always looking for ways to streamline their interview process. With potentially hundreds of applicants it’s impossible for interviewers to meet them all so an over-the-phone interview is a great way for hiring managers to screen a huge pot of candidates in a single day without ever leaving their desks. But what are the rules? We’ve broken down all of our know-how into five key ways you can make a great over-the-phone first impression.

1. Know what to expect

There are two types of phone calls you’re likely to come across in the recruitment process – scheduled and unscheduled. An unscheduled phone call might be in response to your initial application. You’ve submitted your CV and the company wants to hear more about you so they pick up the phone for a five minute conversation. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is just a chat. From the second you pick up that phone you’re in the interview process. This is an opportunity for the interviewer to clarify a few things on your CV and put you on-the-spot to see how you react – are you a smooth-talking over-the-phone professional or someone who trips over their words? 

The second type of phone call is the scheduled “pre-interview” discussion. Treat this like your first interview – it’s vital to make a great impression. All the usual tips apply – talk politely and respectably. Regardless of the process, it’s important to present yourself professionally.

2. Be prepared for everything

From the second you press “Send Application” you’re on the clock. In today’s digital world a hiring manager could have picked up and scanned your CV within minutes of receipt. It’s possible that you’ll find yourself on the phone to a potential employer straight off the bat and the last thing you want to be thinking when you get that call is “Which one was that again?!”. 

Avoid this by doing your research before you submit your application. By all means apply to as many companies as you want but make sure you know who they are and what they do. Make a few notes about the company and their values. This way you won’t be caught off guard and an employer will see you as a viable candidate.

Got a call scheduled? Make sure you allow plenty of time for the call and be prepared to give the interviewer 100% of your attention. Put your mobile on silent, lock your front door and eliminate all distractions. And dress professionally. What happens is the recruiter throws a curve ball and the interview suddenly turns into a video call? That faded, unwashed Superman T-shirt might not be the thing you want to be remembered for.

3. Understand that it’s not just about the skills

Your CV is the place to highlight what you can do and how well you can do it. And while it’s true that an interview lets you double-down on this, keep in mind that the information is already there in black and white. A phone call is your opportunity to back yourself up in other areas. Show, don’t tell. Have you listed Time Management and Organisation as key skills? So has everyone else. Demonstrate this by knowing your calendar inside out and being able to commit to a follow-up interview there and then.

Use the phone call to demonstrate your key character attributes – professionalism, integrity, adaptability, reliability, honesty, strong work ethic. These are all things companies look for in the initial stages of the recruiting process. After all, it doesn’t matter how qualified for the job you are if you’re not professional and reliable.

4. Ask the right questions

How many holidays do I get? How long can I take for lunch? How flexible is that 8am start time? These are all things we consider in a new job, but there’s a time and place for asking these questions and the initial interview phase isn’t it.

The over-the-phone interview is your chance to show an employer what your number one priority is. If you’re going to ask questions, keep them on point. What is your company’s mission statement? What key skills are you looking for? How do you measure professional development and how can I excel in this role? These questions will tell an employer that your number one priority is the job and your suitability for it, rather than your expectations around start times and lunch breaks.    

5. Be grateful and make a lasting impression

Hiring managers will likely make dozens of phone calls to potential employees in a single day. How will you stand out? You can only do so much to show you’re right for the role so it’s important to leave a lasting impression.

Sometimes it’s as simple as being friendly, polite, professional and grateful. Call them by their name, thank them for taking the time to talk to you today, tell them how grateful you are for the opportunity and that you can’t wait to hear back from them about this exciting role. Now is not the time to play hard to get. Show the interviewer that you’re a nice person, you're easy to get along with, you're someone who is passionate about the position and you'll be a great fit for their company.


Further Reading

6 things not to say in an interview & what to say instead
6 essential interview questions you should always ask
6 ways to start your career when you don't have any experience
5 CV cliches you need to avoid
6 ways to prepare for phone & video interviews

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