Think about all those phone calls you have had where the person you were speaking with was monotone, quietly spoken, poorly enunciated… what impact did they leave on you? Negative or maybe absolutely forgettable?

Do you want to be that person the assessor is not going to remember? If not, read on!

Phone interviews are still a prevalent part of graduate recruitment processes around the world. They may be substituted more recently by online video interviews.

This is an absolutely critical (early) stage of the recruitment process where if you pass this stage, you are typically straight through to the next stage of assessment centres or final interviews.

What should I do prior to my interview?

You hopefully know our motto well by now, PREPARE and then PREP & PREP some more! Ensure you know as much as you can about the position & the company. Get online and research as much as possible about the company, their share price (where applicable), any expansion, acquisition or change plans, industry trends. Ensure you research more than just the companies own website, look on news, industry and financial publications. Once completed, stop and reflect what you have just read and see how you will be able to draw back on this information during an interview to highlight that you understand the bigger picture. This knowledge will also help you to communicate how you see your role fitting into the overall company strategy and direction.

Last tip on this point is people spend a lot of time on the company and job but forget about themselves. It’s critical you know your resume, work, extracurricular activities and even theory and technical knowledge related to your studies inside out, you don’t want to be caught on a question that may be the easiest one to answer, had you prepared!

How long does a phone interview last for?

Typically anywhere between 5-20 minutes. The average is 10-12 minutes.

What type of questions are asked?

Typically, you will be asked a mixture of motivational fit and behavioural (BEI) questions.

Motivational questions such as:

  1. What makes you passionate about the field of study you have chosen?
  2. What accomplishment of yours has given you the most satisfaction and why?
  3. What are your aspirations beyond this job?
  4. What are your 2 main career goals?

Behavioural questions (using the STAR methodology – Situation, Task, Action & Results) such as:

  1. Give us an example of a situation where you didn’t meet your goals or objectives?
  2. Have you ever had a conflict with a boss or professor? How was it resolved?
  3. Tell me about a time when despite your best efforts, you were not able to achieve a positive result. When did you realise you weren’t going to achieve success and what steps did you take try and overcome this?
  4. Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer. How did you handle the situation?

Do you want to know the 4 main reason us (real time) recruiters state why students fail phone interviews?

  1. Not able to clearly answer or articulate behavioural or motivational fit questions. Students answers are too long/ short and do not directly answer the question asked. A full STAR response is not provided and extensive probing needing to get a full answer.
  2. Students are not able to outline their own work, volunteer or extracurricular activities in depth or detail as listed on their resume.
  3. Students lack motivation or passion in their voice.
  4. Students do not have a strong understanding of the company, industry or why they want to be a graduate for the company they have applied for.

Is this of a surprise to you? Don’t let yourself fall into one of the above categories.

Some tips, please!

Ensure you don’t ramble. Be clear and concise in your answers, if you have prepared example scenarios prior and practiced them, this will be SO much easier! PREPARE and then PREPARE some more, prepare and practice as many example scenarios you can think of, even if these aren’t the ones asked in the interview, they are generally quite transferable. Just don’t have notes in front of you that you are reading off, as often you may sound like a soulless robot.

If you realise you are floating off course get back on track by validating the question or closing of the answer as quickly as possible (make sure you finish it however). You will notice if an interviewer is trying to get you back on track as often they start to repeat or validate what you have said and then relate your comments back to the question a few times. If you are brave enough, it’s a top tip to write just a couple key words from the question to help keep you on track during the answer, this way you can glance down and ensure you don’t ramble.

Interviews will and do ask questions! Just because they are asking you questions (probing as recruiters call it) doesn’t mean you are off track (don’t confuse the above statement), they may simply be wanting to get a little more information out of you. Often you are asked a lot of questions during the ‘action’ and ‘results’ part of a behavioural question.

Motivational Fit questions are the opportunity for the recruiters to get to know you, these sort of questions often illicit follow-up questions from the interviewer, so let them get to know you, be passionate, engaging and honest. This is a good opportunity to slide in some knowledge about the company, industry and why you are the right person for the role.

Where possible, try and lock in a time with the company so you are prepared, in a quiet place as well as in the right frame of mind. Often companies may just call you up and ask “Is it a good time to talk now?” If it’s not, don’t be shy to say you are busy at the moment and organise a time that works for you as well.

Ensure you have passion and tone in your voice- let them hear why you want to work for the company not only through your words but through the excitement in your voice. Ask your friends/ family about how you sound on the phone and put some effort into adding some change of pitch here and there in your answers if required. Trust us, it makes a BIG difference. Just because you aren’t face to face, doesn’t mean you don’t take it seriously, your voice and words are the ONLY way they get to know you in this exchange, so make the most of it!

Ensure you stay polite and engaged during the interview, we can’ tell you the number of times that people have talked to others during an interview or stop paying attention and we realised they aren’t listening properly- these are 2 big put off’s for recruiters, when we invest our time in you, we expect the same courteous nature in return.

So that’s all folks! Below we have inserted some awesome resources, get on it!

Some awesome resources we wanted to share with you:

http://www2.wlv.ac.uk/careers/onlinedocs/TelephoneInterviews.pdf

http://www.bookdepository.com/Essential-Phone-Interview-Handbook-Paul-Bailo/9781601631541

http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/10/23/6-steps-to-nailing-a-job-interview-over-the-phone/

UC Grad Recruiter