The foolproof guide to mastering telephone interviews


It’s common for hiring managers to use telephone interviews as the first stage of a job interview process.

Why, you may ask?

Largely, it’s down to cost. Using the phone, rather than a face to face session, means that businesses can screen many candidates quickly, with the lowest overall expenditure.

Here’s a step by step guide to mastering what could be one of the most important 60 minutes of your career:

Step 1: Preparation

Although a telephone interview is relatively straightforward, even highly capable candidates can be rejected at this early stage if they are inadequately prepared or not used to speaking in a professional manner over the phone. For many candidates, the whole situation can feel unnatural - without eye contact it can be difficult to build rapport and display a strong personality with your interviewer.

Ensure you are prepared well in advance, once the interview is booked. Find a quiet space, with good mobile signal (assuming you’re not using a landline), preferably indoors and free from distractions. Don’t forget to charge your mobile too!

Step 2: Practice

Practice is useful, especially if you haven't worked in an office or used a telephone to talk to clients in previous jobs. If you can, try getting friends or family members to call you and ask interview questions. Candidates who don't think they'll have any trouble with this style of assessment are often the ones that have difficulties.

Step 3: Research

It is important to find out as much as you possibly can about a company, and a job role, before any type of interview; a telephone interview is no exception. You may receive some information from your prospective employer, but make sure you also visit their website, competitor websites, read relevant trade press, and keep aware of current industry-specific commercial awareness issues. Be aware of the size of a company, its structure, its products and services, its markets, competitors, and future plans.

Step 4: Plan

Plan for possible questions you may be asked before your interview. Consider answers you can give, including good experience examples for competency based questions. It may be wise to prepare an ‘elevator pitch,’ i.e. a set couple of sentences describing why you’d be perfect for the new opportunity.

Lastly, asking your own questions shows you are interested in the company and job role. Ask questions that are relevant to you, but not questions that it would be easy to find out the answers to with a little research on a company website.

Step 5: Master your technique

Although it may sound strange, putting on smart, interview-style clothes before your scheduled telephone interview can help you to focus and get into a professional mindset. Before the session, you could study some relevant material on your company or industry before the scheduled call so that your mind is already focused on work.

Make sure you smile when answering your phone. If you force yourself to smile, you physically become more relaxed and therefore your voice will sound more confident, friendly and assertive.

Standing up, rather than sitting down, can be a good way to keep your confidence and enthusiasm levels high. Professional salesmen use this technique to keep them focused and alert when making high-pressure sales calls. You might consider using a headset, if you have one, which can help you concentrate on talking and thinking, rather than holding your phone. It also allows you to use your hands to complement your responses.

Finally, make sure you keep a copy of your CV, cover letter, application form, and any notes you may have made on the company in question to hand. Telephone interviews will usually be time limited, so questions will tend to focus on your work experience and academic history; your motivations for applying to the firm in question, the particular industry and job role; your knowledge of the firm itself (i.e. competitors, global reach, future plans); and your skills, qualifications and competencies.

Step 6: Conclusion

Part of the reason why firms conduct a telephone interview is to find out how keen candidates are about working at their company and in the particular job role applied for. It is important to be enthusiastic throughout your telephone conversation, but make an effort to be forthcoming at the close.

Your interviewer may be able to tell you at the end of your conversation if they would like to see you for a face-to-face interview. If they do not, there is no harm in asking when you might hear from them regarding the next interview stage. If they do, thank your interviewer and ask them for some further details, such as: when, where and with whom your interview will be; if there is anything you should bring with you to the interview, what the interview format will be and how many people you will be up against; and, what are the crucial skills and key competencies the employer is looking for in employees.

For more advice, take a look at our blog or the candidate support pages on our website.

This article was based on an original piece of work by Wikijob. We thank them for their permission to use it.

4 ways to help you land your dream job; that 99% of recruiting advice DOESN'T tell you.


Job searching can be incredibly frustrating. You can apply for 50+ jobs and receive almost no feedback for the majority of them; other than some sketchy reasons, which explain that you don’t meet the requirements of the position.

Except you think you do.

So, why did you really get rejected?

Sometimes you wish someone would just pull back the curtain, show you the mistakes you’re making, and point you in the right direction. When you look online or speak to recruiters, they’ll tell you this:

·         Tweak your resume and cover letter

·         Apply for jobs online

·         If you don’t hear back, apply for more jobs! Work harder!

So, then you apply for another 50 jobs. And guess what. This doesn’t work either.

Here’s what you should really do:

Forget “Networking.” Build relationships instead

The word – networking. It’s enough to strike fear into the heart of most of us.

It’s also a waste of time.

Going to career fairs, meetup groups, networking events. Showing up to these with nothing but an elevator pitch and a set of business cards is not going to land you a job. You want to get laser-focused on a select few people who can influence your career. Next, get in touch and provide as much value as you possibly can.

The truth is that relationships will land you the job you want, but not if you go about it in the traditional sense. Instead of networking, you need to be building relationships.

Applying for jobs online doesn't pay

On average, an open role at a company gets 250 applications. One of those people gets hired. That’s a 0.4% chance you’ll be successful.

Stop spending hours applying for 100s of jobs. Your dream job doesn't exist in every company. And your skills aren't going to be suitable for every position. Be patient. Shortlist all the companies you want to work for and do EVERYTHING you can to get the job you want at the company you want.

If you want to take control of the job search process and land a job you love, you need a different approach.

Find one or two highly influential people at your dream company, and use the strategies in this blog to begin building relationships with them. Learn about their career path, get interested in their role, become a potential resource for them.

Once the relationship is established, tell them you’re in the market for opportunities and ask them if they know anything that might be a good fit.

Do the job you love, whether you get paid or not

This is a classic example of a skills-based dilemma:

“I want to break into a new industry, but I don’t have enough experience — I’m not qualified.”

“Every job I want requires X years of experience, but nobody will hire me to get that experience in the first place!”

If you can't get paid for the job you want. Do it anyway by freelancing in your spare time. Or volunteering at a more junior level. By understanding what your dream job entails, what skills you need and how much you'll get paid, you'll know exactly what you need to do to achieve what you want.

Outside of building experience, freelancing also provides financial security. The greatest fear for anyone working a 9–5 job is getting fired or laid off. What would we do? How would we pay the bills?

Freelancing can allow us to enjoy new experiences and save while times are good, and they can help us bridge the gap if things don’t go our way.

Keep learning

There are 16 hours in every day that you're awake. To be paid upwards of £50k, you need to be very skilled - or work VERY hard. Watching hours of Netflix at night or going down the pub won't help you get paid to do what you love.

Does that mean you’re never allowed to play video games, see your friends, or watch Game of Thrones (if those things are important to you)? No! Absolutely not.

You have to pick and choose your battles. Understand what is most important to you and prioritise that.

Stop analysing, just pick something that sounds remotely interesting and inundate yourself for 60 days. You could absolutely love it! Or you could absolutely hate it. Either way, you’ve learned something about yourself. Each time you do this, you’ll become a little bit more clear on what you want and how to fulfil your career dream.


Master your body language to be successful at interviews

The majority of interview advice for jobs nearly always focuses on what you say and how good you are at answering questions.

But! Don’t forget we are all human and hiring managers aren’t necessarily paying full attention to your verbal answers. They’re also interested in how you deliver them and your personality. Do you look them in the eye? Do you fidget, play with your pen or fold your arms across your chest? All of these non-verbal cues end up being a part of the overall impression you make.

Your eye contact, handshake and posture can all help or hinder your chances of landing a job. Most hirers will be judging you on your performance within the first 5 minutes of the interview, so it’s important you can kick-off with a good impression.

Here’s some tips to help you prepare:

·         Bad posture. Leaning back can seem lazy. Leaning forward can seem aggressive. Aim for a neutral posture to find the right balance

·         Eye contact. We tend to feel uncomfortable holding the gaze of someone we don’t know. Staring can be rude, but try to look your interviewer in the eye when you are talking to them to show confidence in your answers

·         Crossed arms. Folding your arms is a classic defensive pose and is normally associated with being resistant. Keeping your body language open shows that you are approachable and willing to take on board new ideas

·         Fidgeting. Being restless and twirling your pen around your fingers is never a reassuring sign for interviewers. It’s natural to be a bit nervous, but too much fidgeting can indicate that you aren’t a focused person

·         Mismatched expressions. If someone asks you what you are passionate about, and you tell them without looking passionate, you aren’t going to be convincing anybody anytime soon

But what about nerves?

Anxiety can cause many body-language issues. But doing your homework before a meeting can help ward off those nerves. Solid preparation is most likely to be able to help you stop fidgeting or looking unsure of yourself.

Practice your interview skills ahead of time with friends or family members. When you're finished, ask them for feedback on things like posture, your handshake and eye contact. If you record your practice sessions, you can identify any mistakes you're making unconsciously.

Also, having set answers mastered can be a huge help. Knowing your elevator pitch to respond to the “tell me about yourself” question can really help you relax. Similarly, having specific examples prepared to showcase your skills and experience will help you come across as confident.

Try and relax. Taking a few deep breaths prior to the interview can relieve some of the anxiety that leads to fidgeting and other nervous tics.

Read more of our interview tips and advice on our blog.

Here are the best questions you can ask at the end of an interview

We’re all told that we should prepare some good questions to ask at the end of an interview. But what exactly should those questions be?

Whilst searching for interview advice, a large proportion of the tips usually relate to how you can prepare for certain questions and the skills you’ll need to impress. But, what the guidance usually lacks are good questions to pose to really stand out from your competitors.

Based on research by Glassdoor, we reveal the questions you could ask to highlight that you are interested and taking the hiring process seriously. Bear in mind that each one will depend on the situation.

Understanding more

An easy way to get beyond the basic job description and probe deeper into the details of the job, is to ask more about the role’s expectations and success metrics, such as

1. How does this position contribute to the organisation's success?

2. What do you hope I will accomplish in this position?

3. What support would this position have?

What about the culture?

As much as an interview is about assessing your ability to be a good fit with a company's culture, it is also about gathering as much information and insight into it yourself. You need to understand whether the company is a fit for your values, passions and interests too.

If you pose a simple 'what is the company culture like?' question, it is too easy for the interviewer to come back with something marketing department or human resources approved. Instead you could ask:

4. How long have you been with the company?

5. What was the last big achievement that was celebrated?

6. Would you say that everyone here loves their job?

7. How long do people tend to stay at the company?

Salary, progression and perks

During an interview is the perfect time to ask informed and important questions about pay. No, it's not presumptive or rude; in fact, it's an important factor in your decision-making process:

8. What is the salary range for this role?

9. Besides the base pay, what other benefits are available or negotiable?

10. What's the outlook for progression, salary rises or promotions?

11. How do you recognise and reward high performers?

Day-to-day responsibilities

Drill down into the everyday tasks and expectations for the job you're applying to. These questions are perfect to ask your potential manager or another leader on the team:

12. Tell me about the typical day-to-day role of this position.

13. What are the team's work hours? Are there any specific requirements for time in the office?

14. How does management deliver feedback to employees?

Future opportunities

From development programs to training and mentoring, get a sense of what the company offers in the way professional growth and development opportunities. 

15. Do you have a formal mentorship program or are there mentors available?

16. How have you had the ability to grow in your role?

17. Have any of your current leaders worked their way up the ladder here?

And finally…

Don’t forget to stay positive throughout the job search and ask as many questions as are necessary for you to find a job you love. You may not want to wait until the end of the interview to ask all your questions either – it’s better to spread them out and of course, encourage a natural conversation.

Lastly, if you like the sound of a job but have concerns, it's better to ask the questions and find out the answers in the interview – rather than starting the job and not enjoying it after your fears are realised.

8 uncomfortable things that will make you successful

In our early stages of life, it is natural to try new things and learn from experiences. A newborn has no knowledge of words, numbers, foods or smells until it is exposed to them. Without trying, there is no knowing. And without this process there is little opportunity to be educated.

However, as we get older, this process can start to slow if we become afraid of the unknown and of failure. Because failure is scary!

However, if you can get past the awkwardness of being outside your comfort zone, there is always an opportunity to keep learning and therefore be more successful in your life and career.

Here are our top 8 things that will make you successful:

1. Waking up early

Modern life. It’s exhausting! Whilst it may seem like squeezing in some extra minutes of sleep is going to make you super productive, the opposite is usually true. Your energy, focus and mental capacity are at their highest during the morning hours, only to wane throughout the rest of the day.

Take advantage of that time before breakfast when the chaos of the day has yet to set in. For most people, waking up early is a learned practice. Set aside some time to wake up properly and don’t jump in to complex tasks whilst your still dazed from your slumber. A smooth transition between bed and the workplace will help you to plan for the day and organise your priorities.

2. Admitting a mistake

Everyone has experienced that moment when you’ve realised you’ve made a mistake. The dread plummets to your stomach and your face burns with panic.

However, after the initial moment of rear, ask yourself some key questions:

·         Can the mistake be reversed? If so, how? And what are the consequences?

·         Who should know about the mistake?

·         Who can help you remedy the problem?

·         Do you need to contact anybody to explain what has happened?

What’s your plan? If the mistake isn’t immediately reversible, you’ll need a plan of action. A good plan is the best antidote to mistake-induced discomfort. Shift from panic to determination as soon as possible, and that discomfort will subside.

3. Public Speaking

This one had to be on the list. The fear of it has its own name – glossophobia!

It’s natural to be fearful of public speaking. We’ve all been there. Having that many ears and eyes judging your every word and movement is petrifying. But, in contrast, we all know how compelling a good public speaker can be and how much it can advance your ability to lead and inspire.

So, how to conquer your fears?

There are hundreds of techniques, but the obvious point is that it is impossible to memorise your whole speech. Instead, memorize your key points and your pivot lines. Pivot lines are the sentences that will move you from one key point to another. They act as navigational guides for your audience and a momentary comfort zone for you. Use these pivot lines to reset, take a breath, and move to your next key point.

Understand that everyone wants you to succeed. You are not going into battle. You are not facing a firing squad. These people you are talking to are all decent, interested folks. Many of whom also suffer from glossophobia. So know they are friendly, and talk to them like it.

4. Taking critical feedback

This one stings sometimes, but it’s important. Learning to hear criticism without turning your back to it can be a real achievement in your career.

Think of critical feedback as a cheat sheet. In giving you direct feedback, your manager or colleague is giving you a shortcut — your own personal konami code — to becoming better at your job.

Sometimes, even with the best intentions, taking feedback well can be a struggle. Your impulse will be to protect yourself; to get defensive, or stop listening.

So, be conscious of it. Much like accepting a compliment, take a breath when you realize critical feedback is coming your way. Listen to it all without interruption. Write down what you can. Then, ask questions to make sure you’re interpreting it right.

5. Giving critical feedback

The only thing worse than taking critical feedback is giving it. Whether you’re a manager or a friend, feedback is an opportunity to help someone get better. Don’t waste it. Good coaches give feedback directly and with respect. Don’t try to soften the blow or talk around the feedback. Doing so may make you feel better but it will only serve to confuse them.

If you’re struggling to be direct, try one clear line followed by detail. For example, “John, what you’re doing isn’t working. Let’s talk through why…”

Ultimately, knowing how to improve is as important as knowing what to improve. The person receiving the feedback should leave the conversation feeling empowered to change, not broken down.

6. Networking and making small talk

Everyone has a small-talk formula. Some people start with the weather, while others ask how things are going with you at work.

Here’s the trick to mastering small talk: Be fascinated by watching people who are good at it.

It’s a little like being dealt a hand of cards, you can use what you have to get to bigger and more interesting plays. If someone asks you how work is, don’t say “fine” — or worse, “busy.” Tell them it’s good and follow up with, “You know, there’s one project in particular that you may find interesting.” If you’re doing the asking, take any opportunity to dive deeper. Use each question as a spring board to the next one. Eventually, you’ll hit on something substantial.

7. Getting in over your head

Of all the uncomfortable moments, getting in over your head is probably the one most worth pursuing. Sure, it’s a little scary , and there’s always the chance of failure, but nothing stretches you more or makes you more creative than having no idea what you’re doing.

So how do you put yourself in an over-your-head style situation? Raise your hand. When there’s a project no one wants, step up. When there’s a problem that has existed for years, have at it. Then break it down. Take big challenges and tackle them piece by piece. It may not always be fun, but you will almost always be better for the effort.

9. Promoting yourself

You only have to log on to LinkedIn to realise that there is a fine line between self-promotion and arrogance. Used in the wrong way, self-promotion can be a great way to massage your ego, but there’s also a way to promote yourself to the benefit of you and your company.

We are taught not to be overly self-promotional. We are encouraged to value the achievement rather than the accolades. But there trick here is to work out the difference. Not everything you do deserves broader attention. But some things do. In those cases, talking about them doesn’t make you an attention junkie, it makes you a good communicator. If the personal attention makes you uncomfortable, focus your advocacy on the work itself. Draw attention to the discovery, milestone or lessons uncovered by your effort. Your company will be better for it and you will too.

But this is really just the beginning. What will make me uncomfortable could be a walk in the park for you. Decide on what makes you uncomfortable and decide how to conquer your fears. You might just find that by doing so, you achieve some great successes at the same time.

This article was adapted from a blog, written by Meghan Keaney Anderson at Hubspot:

Can you negotiate when receiving a job offer? And crucially, should you?


Picture this: You’ve done endless preparation and have applied for a dozen jobs. The job you really want is with a great company, with excellent prospects. You think it’s super unlikely are going to get it, but you work really hard and apply anyway.

Then, the unthinkable happens! You get an interview request!

And after much preparation and research, you smash your interview, but still you think that a job offer is just a dream.

But then, when you were least expecting it, you get the call: A job offer!

At this point, it’s safe to say that what most people do is this: They accept the job, sign the contract, and turn up for work on the start date.

But what would have happened if you’d have negotiated? Could you have got an even better deal?

Let’s take it from the top.

A job offer is just a mutual agreement

Like any market, the job market only functions well if it’s competitive. This is the only way to ensure fair and equitable pricing. Imagine you were a farmer selling apples. Would you just sell your apples to the first buyer who agreed to purchase them? Or would you survey the marketplace of buyers, see the best price (and business partner) you could get, and then make an informed decision on which buyer to sell to?

And yet, when people talk about the job market, they think “oh, a company wants to give me a job! What a relief!” As though having a job were in itself some special privilege for which a company is the gatekeeper.

Dispel yourself of this mindset.

A job is just a deal. It is a deal between you and a company to exchange work for money (and other things you value).

This might sound like an abstract point, but you should absolutely approach negotiation from this perspective.

The role of negotiation

Negotiating is a natural and expected part of the process of trying to make a deal. It’s also a signal of competence and seriousness. Companies generally respect candidates who negotiate, and most highly attractive candidates negotiate (if for no other reason, because they often have too many options to choose from).

Whilst it’s very easy to say; it doesn’t matter how good or bad you think you are. You never damage a relationship by negotiating and it’s extremely unlikely that the job offer will be rescinded if you do. In fact, it’s almost unheard of.

You might think to yourself: “well, I don’t want to set high expectations, and the offer is already generous, so I ought to just take it.

No. Negotiate.

Or maybe: “I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot and look greedy with my future employer.

No. Negotiate.

“But this company is small and — “

No. Negotiate. Negotiate. Negotiate.


But where do I start? And how do I negotiate?

Fair question. And one that we will come back to on a later blog, but here’s the crux of the matter: how much does the job mean to you and how do you feel about the company? Just because you had your heart set on this company originally, where you now have your offer, it doesn’t mean that it’s definitely the right fit for you.

Do not fall into the trap of valuing companies solely along one dimension. That means don’t just value companies based on salary, equity, or even on prestige. Those are all important dimensions, but so are cultural fit, the challenge of the work, learning potential, later career options, quality of life, growth potential, and just overall happiness. None of these inherently trump any of the other. Anyone who tells you “just choose wherever you think you’ll be happiest” is being just as simplistic as someone who says “just choose the one that offers the most money.” All of these things matter, and your decision should be genuinely multi-dimensional.

Be open to being surprised as you explore different companies.

It’s also important to understand that companies don’t all value you along the same dimension either. That is, different companies are genuinely looking for different skills, and there are some companies at which you will be more and less valuable. Even at peer companies this is true, especially so if you have a specialized skill-set.

The more companies you talk to, the more likely you are to find a company to which you are significantly more valuable than the rest. Chances are this is where you’ll be able to negotiate your strongest offer. It might surprise you which company this turns out to be; keep an open mind, and remember that a job search is a 2-sided process.