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Be prepared and professional:

You've got a telephone interview. Now what?
By Motherpedia
Date: March 06 2013
Tags: work,
Editor Rating:

Have you recently applied for a new job? If you’ve taken our advice here recently about preparing your CV and online presence, you may be expecting an interview. Very often, the first step is a phone interview and it’s cause for optimism.

But whatever you do, says executive recruitment specialist Maria Forrest, don’t think this is a friendly, laid-back chat.

“We use this call to develop a profile on you. How do you answer the phone? What is your attitude like? Do you sound professional and friendly? Can you communicate effectively.”

Maria says it’s also an opportunity to assess how the candidate might fit into the company.

“And if the call is a Skype call, make sure you look professional. I recently interviewed an overseas candidate and invited them to nominate the time. They did for 6.30am their time and he turned up in his pyjamas and his hair not combed!”

She says, in that instance, even if the candidate had slept in a little, it would have been better to contact her and say he was running a little late so he had time to put on a shirt and comb his hair.

“Delays happen. That’s acceptable. But being unprofessional isn’t.”

She says it is important for candidates to realise that they can make the phone call at a time to suit them. 

"If the recruitment consultant calls you and wants to talk now, that in itself is unprofessional. You should politely but firmly 'push back' on that and let them know when would be a convenient time. If it's during your work time, make sure you have privacy and won't be interrupted.

"Another candidate of mine recently made a time to talk to me when she was at the airport and all I could hear in the background was flight announcements."

Maria says that, in addition to look and sounding the part, she is looking for three key factors when she holds a screening telephone interview.

1.  What you offer. Why is this candidate better than any other? What is their value proposition? “Tell me why your talents, skills, qualifications and experience are a great fit for the role. I want to know why you are the best person for the job.”

2.  Sound interested. “An employer wants a candidate who really wants to work in the company in that job.” Maria says it helps if you do some research and understand something of the company, the issues it faces and its competitors if relevant. She says she "simply doesn't" put anyone up for further interviews who doesn't sound interested and engaged in the company and the role.

3.  Clarify any negatives. A gap in your CV? You live 90 minutes away? “Don’t over-explain it, but be ready to give a response on these issues.” The commute time may be nothing to you as you’ve always done it. “If you’ve got a gap in your CV, my first advice is not to, but if it’s there, be prepared to say why.” Maria says whatever you do, don’t sound as if you’re being defensive or evasive.

It can sometimes take up to five interviews to land a job and first impressions count.

“The key is to be prepared and to be professional,” says Maria. 

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