How Do I Make A Better First Impression During Phone Interviews?

Dear DFS,

I’ve been job searching for two months now, and every interview I’ve had has been via telephone. I always prepare before the interview, but somehow, I still end up drawing a blank when I’m asked certain questions. I would consider myself a very social person, but I don’t think I come off well on the phone. Do you have any tips for how to make a better first impression during a phone interview?

Thanks for your help, 

Charlotte, Leeds, UK

Dear Charlotte,

First let me say congratulations on obtaining a telephone interview. To reach this point is an accomplishment! You must have a great CV to have made it this far.

A telephone interview brings a CV to life – giving the pages blood, bones and a personality. And believe it or not, the interviewer can tell a lot about a person just from their voice and energy levels.

However, phone screening is also a time saver for the scrutinizer, especially if there are many applicants. So you do need to be ultra-prepared.

Amazingly, only seven percent of the entire communications model comprises words. That leaves 38 percent for “how you say things” – tone, pitch, emphasis, voice quality etc., and 55 percent for body language – which of course you cannot use. Therefore you need to magnify your verbal skills to make an impact!

Think of the phone interview as good practice – perhaps recording the next one so you can self-listen – maybe with a friend or colleague – and assess the parts you think need improving. I am wondering what the questions are where you say you draw a blank – these are precisely the ones you need to address so that next time you will have a ready answer.

Your primary mission in any interview is to identify the employer’s needs and to positively address them, relating your experience and interest to the specific job. Research both the company, its customers and its competitors.

Here are a few tips which may help:

  • Harness your nervous tension by taking a few deep breaths through your nose and out through your mouth before you begin. We all talk too quickly when nervous.
  • Present yourself in an appropriate way – making the best use of your social skills rather than trying to be right, clever or funny
  • Don’t rush into an answer before thinking about it. Silence can be misconstrued, but do give yourself time to think. You can always add “mmmm” or “ah hah” to break the silence
  • Don’t speak too quickly and try to pause for emphasis
  • Visualise yourself in the interview room, exuding your own social personality
  • Anticipate the employer’s questions about your experience, training, history, expectations and formulate short, positive responses beforehand
  • Develop a list of promotional statements to highlight your strengths. Write them down and rehearse them. In other words, sell yourself.
  • Don’t pretend to know everything, but hopefully you will have researched the company, and can show your knowledge and enthusiasm by asking relevant questions
  • Remember the name of the interviewer and use it
  • The more you can get the interviewer to share their needs, expectations or problems, the better THEY will feel about the interview. People like talking about themselves
  • Be assertive yet courteous, don’t let yourself be intimidated and above all, be honest.

Most hiring decisions are based on intangibles – intuition, like-mindedness, feelings, rather than on qualifications, experience and training. And remember – the hiring manager has much more at stake than you!

I hope these tips help you in your next job interview Charlotte, and that you will indeed acquire the job of your dreams.

Our very best wishes,

Sue Scott-Gould

Board member

Wellington affiliate

New Zealand


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