Firstly, if you have a telephone interview for a job – well done! You have interested a potential employer or recruiter enough for them to arrange a telephone interview with you. This is often an intermediary stage, following application, to whittle down candidates to a more manageable amount for face-to-face interviews; it can occasionally be the only interview, however, particularly if there are problems of distance.
A telephone interview is very much a two-way conversation. The employer wants to find out a bit more about you; they want you to expand on your CV, provide more detail and concrete examples, and they will be gauging how you come across on the telephone – your verbal communication skills, your enthusiasm and your interest.
Asking pertinent questions about the role and the organisation are vital then – just as relevant for you is whether you want to progress your application. It could be that, on reflection, and armed with more information, this is not the opportunity for you, and it is better to find out at this stage, rather than having to pull out when the job is offered to you.
Preparation is key
If you haven’t already been told, it’s worth asking how long has been set aside for your interview as this will give you an idea of how much detail to go into. Be alert, also, to how the interviewer is responding to your answers, as a guide to whether you are being detailed enough. If they interrupt you, to move you on to another question, you need to be more succinct; if they are prompting you for more information you need to open up more and give some more examples.
Before the interview, write down the key objectives and responsibilities of the role, and prepare examples of how you meet the criteria. Don’t assume the interviewer will tease out your skills from your examples – really spell it out for them: how does that specific skill relate to what they are looking for?
Try to keep your answers structured using a four-part approach: what the situation was, what skills/tools you used, why it relates to the role and finally a reflection on how it went. It’s very easy to get side-tracked and waffle to fill awkward gaps, but keeping it tight with this approach ensures it remains relevant. The environmental graduates we have placed have found this works really well.
Striking a rapport
Successful interviews always involve building rapport. If the candidate and interviewer are aligned, both parties will feel they have got the best out of the conversation. The interviewer wants to feel comfortable just as much the candidate. Concentrate on conveying a warm and open manner, and respond to any verbal clues. Show enthusiasm, keep your examples appropriate and sell yourself.
About the author
Written by Karl McGrory. Karl is Head of Change Partnerships at CHANGE AGENTS UK. Change Agents is a charity that specialises in recruitment, training and support for a wide range of sustainability projects.