Telephone interviews are being used more and more these days as they are extremely time efficient for the recruiter. Once used only by recruitment agencies, many private organisations use these as an initial filter. Undoubtedly you will come across these at some stage in your career, so it's best to have some idea what to expect beforehand.
Think about what you are trying to achieve here. it's not about actually securing the job at this stage. it's about getting to the next level which involves a face to face interview
Everything I have said previously about you doing research on the organisation still applies. The advantage you will have this time is that you can have all your research notes in front of you to refer to, rather than having to commit it all to memory. This goes for your CV and covering letter too. Have them in easy reach. Even better, why not prepare a reference sheet with points to jog your memory on specific tasks you have worked on, achievements you have made or projects you’ve taken part in?
When you agree to an appointment for a telephone interview, make sure that you choose a time where you know you can definitely be in an environment conducive to you giving your best. That means no interruptions, no background noise, etc. If you can, make sure you receive the call on a landline. Then there is no worry about batteries going flat or reception being lost. You will be more likely to be relaxed and give a better account of yourself in this type of environment.
The biggest drawback, from both the recruiter’s and the candidate’s point of view, is the lack of visual feedback during the conversation. These subtle, visual clues to how well we are doing are denied us, so we must be focused and alert to picking up on purely verbal indications. If the interviewer is good at what they do, they will have prepared well at their end and the call will have a clear structure and purpose. This is good for you as it stops the conversation straying into areas which may have pitfalls in them for you.
In your responses, try to be clear and concise. Remember that the reason a telephone interview is happening in the first place is to speed up the whole recruitment process, so highly detailed, long-winded answers are not called for here. I would also suggest that you make sure that your diction is good so the interviewer understands you clearly. If anything, slow down your speech slightly to allow extra time for the interviewer to make written notes about what you are saying. If you don’t have shorthand skills and have ever tried to capture people’s words verbatim, you will know exactly how difficult that is! Do what works for you. Some people have found that standing up during a telephone interview helps them focus (no opportunity to doodle) and helps with their breathing and posture. This translates into sounding composed over the telephone.
You may want to rehearse beforehand. Try writing your own set of questions and have someone telephone you and ask you these questions. Remember that this is unlikely to be the hiring stage, so the questions are unlikely to be complex or demanding. Get them to write down your responses and add their own critique. Analyse these notes and amend your approach accordingly.
Part of the purpose of the telephone interview, from the recruiter’s perspective, is to find out how much you want the job and (in the case of sales jobs) whether you have closing skills.
As soon as it seems appropriate during the conversation, ask for a date to meet for a face-to-face interview. Say something like: ‘Well, this certainly sounds like just the job I’m looking for, Mr X. I’m sure I can contribute a lot to your organisation. I’d really like to visit you to show you what I can offer. When and where would you meet me?’
You may have to be content with the response: ‘Well, we have a few other candidates to talk to yet, but we will be in touch’, but at the very least you can ask “When am I likely to hear from you?”. If the manager umms and ahhs, decide upon a reasonable timescale, and suggest ‘Well, I’m very keen to know if I’m going forward to the next stage, so if I haven’t heard from you by next Friday, would you mind if I call you then for find out?’ This approach is particularly important if you are applying for sales jobs, as you are expected to demonstrate your natural salesmanship. But even in the case of other jobs, most people will appreciate your keenness and enthusiasm. If they don’t, and you lose the job on account of being ‘too pushy’ (most unlikely), well, is it the sort of job you wanted anyway?
If after a telephone interview you don’t get called to the next stage, do not be afraid to contact the recruiter again and ask for feedback on your performance. This will help you to improve your own skills and hopefully produce a more positive outcome in the future.