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Telephone Interviews – What to Expect

What happens in a telephone interview?

One of the first questions we always here from our clients is this, “What happens in a telephone interview?” On this page we explore what a telephone interview is, what it entails and why they are so popular these days.

What is a telephone interview?

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Any ‘interview’ is a structured conversation with the objective of better understanding a candidate’s suitability for a job position.

In a so-called, normal interview, the candidate or interviewee, will meet with the potential employer or interviewer, face-to-face. Through a series of progressive and structured questions, the interviewer will seek to illicit a sufficient understanding of the calibre and skills of the candidate to enable them to judge their suitability for the role they are seeking to appoint.

A telephone interview shares a similar objective but replaces the traditional face-to-face meeting with a telephone call. While much remains the same, there are a few key differences that candidates will benefits from considering as they work on their telephone interview preparation. Through out the rest of this article we explore these important nuances and their implications for interviewees.

Why do companies use telephone interviews?

Companies are all about the efficient use of their resources. When it comes to valuable resources of the company it’s hard to think of two more valuable than money and the time of its people. Telephone interviews can save both. And that, in a nutshell, is why they are so popular.

Compared to a one hour phone call, the resources involved in transporting a candidate to the company HQ and interviewing them in person, are huge. While some candidates may come from nearby, others may be an international flight away.

In this situation, it makes sense for companies to understand as much as possible about candidates suitability for a role before they begin to further invest in the recruitment process.

Screening Telephone Interviews

So here we see the major benefit of the telephone interview for companies. A simple phone call with a skilled HR Manager will save the cost of an flight, a hotel, food, taxis, and the management time to conduct the interview in person.

Depending on the size of the company, your interview will be with a specific grade of employee. If you are applying to a small or medium sized company without ah specific HR function, you will most likely have a telephone interview with one of the owners or a member of the senior team. In contrast, if you have applied to a multinational or similarly large organisation, you are most likely to be find your telephone interview will be conducted by a relatively junior member of the HR Team.

Screening Interviews to Reveal a Shortlist

The HR Manager will have been trained in interviewing and will have been briefed on what to look for in candidates for this role. As a result, these telephone interviews can sometimes appear to be rather mechanical. You may find yourself finding it hard to build rapport with your interviewer because they are not trying to reciprocate friendship, but rather screen you against certain specific criteria.

It is important that you don’t mistake the stand-offish, sometimes cool behaviour of telephone interviewers as a sign that you are not suitable. That is not necessarily the case. Rather, they may be holding similar interviews with 10-15 other candidates and they are keen to get through their questions. Whatever you do, stay warm, stay enthusiastic.

At the end of the process, your interviewer will have spoken with all of the candidates and will be screening out those who seem the least appropriate fit. Those who remain after this interviewing filter process will most likely be invited to advance to the next round of the selection process. Often, this is a face-to-face interview at the company offices.

Pam Wood
Telephone Interview Expert - Author of "The Essential Guide to Telephone Interview Success" and "7 Insider Telephone Interview Tips" as seen at www.telephoneinterview.net