Centred Content

Dear Joanna

Finally my telephone rang after months of applying for jobs. I’ve just confirmed a time and a date for a telephone interview with a recruiter at a leading bank for a customer service position in their call centre. I’m going to be practicing with my Reena job coach to be prepared for this call. Hopefully, I’ll be called in for a face-to-face or virtual job interview, the next steps! Please help me prepare for this intimidating step in the job search game.

Signed: Telephonically Challenged

Centred Content

Dear TC

As Judith Stock (2013) explains in her article on http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/10/23/6-steps-to-nailing-a-job-interview-over-the-phone/  employers are “increasingly opting for phone interviews to screen potential new hires. By doing so, companies can sort through candidates without committing to the expense and time required for on-site meet-ups”.  Referring to my past discussions with employers, as well as the tips from Reena’s SET job coaches, here are some recommendations to ace this first part of the job interview!

  1. Have a professional voicemail. When the hiring manager calls you, you don’t have to pick up the phone right away. In fact, prepare a very professional, clear, quiet message, similar to one that you would have for your work. State your name, telephone number and invite the caller to leave a detailed message. There should not be any noises in the background. It should be your voice on the message.
  2. Don’t pick up. Let the hiring manager or recruiter leave a message, especially if you have noise in the background like a barking dog or you are doing something else like driving on the 401. Then proceed to a quiet and isolated room with a locked door, and bring your cover letter, resume, job posting, glass of water, a pen and paper and a “working’ telephone with an excellent connection.
  3. Working Your Mobile Phone. Although less popular today, landlines are preferred as a cell phone is less reliable as the calls could get dropped. If you are using your mobile, make sure your technology is working 100 per cent! This is no time to play with your phone! Double check your phone is fully changed and when you return the call (or take it at the time), it is in a place with the best reception as possible. Then return the phone call and make sure you identify yourself, the job in question (including job title and job reference numbers if applicable). In either case, remember to get the telephone and email of the interviewer just in case you get disconnected.
  4. Prepare and Research. As you would prepare for the in person or virtual job interview, do the same for the telephone one too.  Do your research on google and all social media tools. Find out as much as you can on the company, the interviewer and the other employees as well as the workplace culture. Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer but only if he or she asks  for it. For example, what specific skills are you looking for in this candidate? Or “I read that the company ____ (insert a recent success).  How do you see this position contributing to the continued success of the organization?”
  5. Be professional. Even though the interviewer won’t see you, I would dress as you would for a face-to-face interview; you’re more likely to feel and sound professional if you look the part. Smile, keep engaged and upbeat over the phone. Let your positive attitude shine through the handset or headset! Place a mirror on your desk to see your facial expressions when you tal You don’t have the body language or the non-verbal communication abilities to impress the caller. It’s all about the voice.
  6. Be focused, courteous and concise. Stock warns job seekers that the telephone interview is shorter than the in-person interviews. You have less time to make a good impression. So avoid long-winded answers. Practice the day before the interview. Take notes during the call. Focus on the conversation and listen carefully in order to respond appropriately to the questions. Ask for the direct telephone number and email. End with a “thank you”.
  7. Follow up. Twenty-four to 48 hours after the interview ends, send an email thanking the interviewer for the opportunity and summarizing what you spoke about during the phone interview. The subject line should be: “Your name and the position you applied for.” restate your interest. And, if you really want to appear smarter than most, include a link to an interesting news article about the company that you already found during your preparation research.


To submit your questions and comments to this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email jsamuels@reena.org