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Telephone Interviews- ‘You had me at Hello!’



Remember Renée Zellweger’s famous line in the movie Jerry Maguire where she says to Tom Cruise, “You had me at ‘hello’”? Scientists have now proven that people judge others instantly by their voice alone. “From the first word you hear a person speak, you start to form this impression of the person’s personality,” explains Phil McAleer, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Telephone interviews are a really easy way for companies to see if an applicant has the competencies most employers are looking for. But one thing candidates don’t seem to realise is that the employer can make up his or her mind in the first second of the telephone interview. It all comes down to the word ‘Hello’!

The way you say ‘Hello’ is the most important step of a telephone interview. If you sound bored, unexcited, unenthusiastic, distracted or not articulate enough, then you may have just lost your chance. From my time working in the field of graduate recruitment, it surprises me how many young people seem to mess the telephone interview up! We used to have over 1,000 people applying for jobs every week, and when we called them for their telephone interview we ended up rejecting over 75%. This is an enormous percentage and it could all have been so different if only they had followed these principles:

1.     You must sound enthusiastic and smile. When a company calls you for a telephone interview, remember this is only the first step. You are facing tough competition, so sound like you’re really pleased to hear from them! Strange as it may seem, a smile changes the tone of your voice and, even though you can’t be seen, the interviewer will sense that you’re smiling and will instantly warm to you. I would also encourage you to stand up, rather than sit down, as you will project your voice more and sound clearer.

2.     Listen to their questions. Another common mistake young people make is that they don’t hear the question because they haven’t listened effectively enough. You must answer the question you have been asked. A good trick is to repeat the question once it is asked to you. For example, if asked, ‘Why do you want to work for our company?’ you would answer, ‘I want to work for your company because…’

3.     Never ask halfway through the call who the interviewer is and which company he is calling from! If you have listened effectively from the beginning, you would have taken in these details. I know that you have been applying to lots of different jobs and I’m sure the telephone interviewer does too, but remember everyone is human and humans are egocentric by nature. This means you must stroke the interviewer’s ego and act as if this is the only company you have applied to and the only company you would ever want to work for. Don’t worry – you’ll find out these vital details later when they email you. Alternatively, a good trick is to take down an email address at the end and then you’ll know.

4.     Don’t ramble or waffle – be concise in your answers! There is nothing more annoying to a telephone interviewer than a candidate who goes on and on about nothing. Listen to the question and then be concise in your answers by using the FEATURE, PROOF, BENEFIT rule I outline in my book ‘The Graduate Bible’. For example: ‘Why do you want to work for our company?’ ‘I want to work for your company because I have been doing lots of research on the sector (FEATURE) and I particularly like the new development in X space (PROOF). With this new thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm for this industry, I definitely feel I would be the best candidate for the job!’ (BENEFIT). The answer is short, concise and has a clear example and benefit statement. Try and answer all questions with this format.

5.     Close for commitment – don’t just let the interviewer hang up and say goodbye. Express your enthusiasm for the role and ask what the next steps are, and when you can expect an answer. Explain that you have been progressed to further interviews (even if you haven’t) with other companies, however this one is your favourite (stroking that ego).

If you follow all of these steps then I am certain you will be invited to the next step, which is often an assessment center or a face-to-face interview.

If you want to learn more hints and tips about interviews, assessment days and how to secure your dream job, then find a copy of my book ‘The Graduate Bible’ on Amazon today.


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