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How to suceed in a telephone interview

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Matt Darvill Blog, Interviews, Tips...

A telephone interview is often the first stage after you submit your application. This may be with a recruitment agency (such as Ambitions Personnel) or your new potential line-manager. Generally, this is quite informal, the idea is to go through your CV and give you a chance to talk about your experience and interests.


Treat the telephone interview how you would a face-to-face interview. Have a copy of your CV, the job description and a pen and paper ready. An interview is not a memory test, so have as much as you need in front of you. Perhaps make some short notes of the most important things you want to say, to guide you throughout the interview.

Find a quiet place where you know you won’t be disturbed and have a glass of water ready. It’s important for you to be as professional as possible, without worrying about your surroundings.

Short Introduction

One thing you can do, which is transferable across interview formats, is preparing a short introduction. Often the first question is ‘tell me about yourself?’ all you need to do is prepare 3 to 4 sentences about your current position. This can be your present job responsibilities, educational history and previous experience all in one paragraph. Don’t worry about putting too much detail in there, you have a whole interview to do that.

Competency Questions

This is a technique used by lots of recruiters when there are lots of candidates who have similar technical qualifications. A common use is on graduate schemes, but the method is widely used. These questions usually start with a “tell me about a time…” or “give an example…” The key here is to answer in the STAR format.

Situation – Where were you when this happened?

Task – What were you required to do?

Action – How did you achieve what you needed to?

Result – Summarise the end result

By using this guide you will sound professional and concise, giving the interviewer everything that they need in the answer.

Things to Avoid

Avoid saying too much and ‘waffling’, both you and the interviewer will find this unnecessary. Any gaps in the call are perfectly normal, both of you may be writing something down. The other important thing is to keep the conversation professional. Many people make the mistake of being too conversational as if they are speaking to a friend. Keep in your mind that it is still a formal situation and that you need to stay professional.

If you do have a telephone interview soon then we wish you the best of luck, let us know how you get on!