Candidate Toolbox









Telephone Interviews


Telephone Interviews have one advantage over the other types of interviews–you can have your preparation materials in front of you as the interview is taking place. This includes not only your resume, but also a "cheat sheet" of compelling story topics that you would like to introduce. It can also include a "cheat sheet" about the employer, including specific critical points describing the employer and their products. So have your materials open and available when you are preparing for a phone interview. They are there to support you and enhance your value to the employer, who will greatly respect your ability to answer questions with focus and meaningful content.

It is important that your phone interview sound well-organized and thoughtful, but not rehearsed. Only write down important points on paper, but do not write down entire paragraphs or sentences and read them when you are conversing with an employer. It is very easy for someone to tell if you are reading, and they may test how quickly you can think on your feet.


Employers use telephone interviews as a way of identifying and recruiting candidates for employment. There are three basic types of telephone calls that you get from employers at this stage. One of the keys to success is to be able to identify quickly what type you are going to be participating in.


1.           "Information Gathering Interviews" – An employer may ask to speak to you over the phone in order to assess your interest in the company. This often occurs if you are referred to him or her through a personal contact, referral, or someone you met at a career fair. Although this kind of call should be treated formally, you should consider it as seriously as an in-depth interview. It is a good way for you, as the potential employee, to see if you are a good fit for the company and their objectives.


2.           "Screening Call" – Many companies use telephone calls as a screening mechanism in order to narrow the pool of applicants who will be invited for in-person interviews. These are quick and the person calling you will most likely be someone from Human Resources.


3.           "In-Depth Telephone Interview" – In this case, the telephone is being used as a way to minimize the expenses involved in traveling for the interviewer and/or the interviewee. Depending on the type of organization that you are interviewing with, you may be interviewed by a hiring committee, where you will be broadcast over a speakerphone.






The Unexpected Call


While you're actively job searching, it's important to be prepared for a phone interview on a moments notice. You never know when a recruiter or a networking contact might call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk.

It is 9:15 am; you’re in bed and the telephone rings. More than one student has mistaken an initial call from an employer for a telemarketer and lived to regret it later. The best strategy for handling the unexpected call is:


•             Determine whether it is a call or an interview, calls are primarily informational, while interviews include job-related questions.


•             If it is an interview, decide quickly if this is a good time to talk. If it isn’t, simply ask if you can arrange a mutually convenient time to conduct the interview.


•             Apply your best interviewing skills (even if you are dressed in your pajamas).

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