Preparing for phone interviews

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Telephone interviews are common for pre-screening applicants before face-to-face interviews.

  • For international job vacancies, employers benefit from the ability to interview candidates from a much wider geographical area in much greater numbers than they would at a face-to-face interview
  • The goal of a telephone interview from an employer’s point of view is a first filter to eliminate unsuitable candidates.
  • For you, the job hunter, the telephone interview has advantages and disadvantages. Telephone interviews give you more control over the setting and environment of the interview. On the other hand, they do not allow you to see or respond to the non-verbal clues available at a face-to-face interview.
  • Your goal is to prepare in advance for the telephone interview in order to proceed to the face to face/in person interview.



  1. Keep details of all the jobs you have applied for together with your research data on each in separate folders close to the phone. These will be especially important in the case of unscheduled calls from agencies or employers you have approached, where your ability to come across as a prepared candidate could make the difference in getting to the next stage.
  2. Prepare an interview pack to keep by the telephone. It should contain your CV, pen or pencil and a pad of paper.
  3. Prepare for a phone interview in the same way you would for a face-to-face interview.
  4. Prepare a few questions to ask at the end of the call.


  1. Avoid distractions, close the door, warn family and friends not to make a noise. Turn off sound on cellphone/mobile and all other devices.
  2. How you sound to the interviewer will form a large part of the selection procedure. The tone of your voice can transmit all sorts of emotions, nervousness, confidence, anxiety, uncertainty and so on. Practise smiling on the phone – it will automatically give your voice a lift and change how you sound.
  3. Standing up while on the telephone is a trick to control and help project your voice.
  4. Remember, short sentences are more powerful than rambling narrations.
  5. If you are unclear about a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it.
  6. Write questions down, especially if they are in multiple parts.
  7. If you get a tough question, buy yourself time by repeating it out loud to the interviewer. This will give you time to think and ensure that your answer is relevant.
  8. Don’t be afraid of silences and don’t be tempted to keep talking long after your point has been made. They can always ask you for more detail
  9. Beware of being overly familiar with the interviewer because you are in your own environment.
  10. Try not to umms and ahhs, or use phrases like “to be honest”.
  11. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for his/her time.


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Find your character!

By Bill Dixon


There comes a moment in getting a job when the spadework is over: the research done, the CV written and polished, the letters mailed, the phone calls and emails launched, and the adverts replied to, even a preliminary interview got over. Yes, it is the moment of decision and the decision might be in the hands of the prospective employer or it might not. It is a wise man who knows when not to accept an unsuitable offer, and a brave one too because most of us go looking for a job because we need it- we have bills to pay and mouths to feed. 


I have just been reading the story of Tony Kurtz, the young mountaineer who in 1936 very nearly succeeded in climbing the North Face of the Eiger, thought then by many to be unclimbable, who very nearly saved the lives of his three friends after a stonefall injured one of the party and who died tragically just a few metres away from rescuers, because his frostbitten hands could not untie a knot.  I was able to get something out of the story of the details of the climbing techniques, the equipment used, the routefinding, and the weather conditions. These things have some specific meaning for me because I have done a bit of (much, much easier) alpine climbing so I know the jargon, and how to interpret it and I have an appreciation for what it might have been like to be there. But what soars above the specifics of the account is the character of the man: his initial zeal for the climb, his selflessness in calling for a retreat in order to save the party and his absolute determination in the attempt to rescue the whole party, which left him too exhausted to save himself when they had already perished.


We are not all like Tony Kurtz but we do all have something special, which defines us more profoundly than our qualifications or technical competence, our training, or our experience. This character, this inner fire, is the thing we take with us from job to job, from career to career, and I don’t think that it changes much during our lives. When we go looking for a new job or a new career, we have to let people see it. The fire has to flare up so that, at the moment of decision, other people become aware of its heat, its energy.


I have changed employer a good number of times, and I have worked in several different fields: as an electronics engineer, a programmer, an investment analyst, a Vice President in a Wall Street  bank, a Senior Partner in a London consulting firm, and a teacher and lecturer,  in Britain, Switzerland, Germany and Spain. I don’t believe that my specific competences were ever the key factor which got me a job, even if they were important. It was my character. I am not naturally confident, quite naïve when it comes to the interpersonal minefield of company politics, and not much good at selling. I’m not a manager.  I often lack determination. My character is that I am intellectually curious and I know instinctively how to use that to identify problems which other people overlook or just don’t understand, and to find interesting solutions. That’s me. When I get all excited in an interview, it’s because I’m fanning the flame of that inner fire to show the other man my character.


Find your character, fan the flame, burn people a little.


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