How To Pass Telephone Interviews
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Hi there and welcome to “How to Pass Telephone Interviews.” My name is Richard McMunn, and for the duration of this training module, I’m going to teach you how to pass a telephone interview. Now it’s important that before I begin, you get yourself a pen and a piece of paper, and take a note of the important hints and tips that I’m going to provide you throughout the duration of this module. You’ll find that there’s a number of really, really crucial tips that will help you to pass your telephone interview. I’ve obviously listed them down during this module, whilst you’re watching it, but I would also encourage you to take notes, because that’s how we learn. If you write things down, then they’re more likely to stick with you throughout the duration of this program.Once it’s finished, you can take away the tips that I provide you with and put them into practice.
I’ve passed, myself, over 95% of interviews that I’ve attended, and I did that not because I’m special in any way, but because I follow a sort of set area of preparation. I always use it time and time again. For example, before I go to an interview, I always make sure that I carry out a number of mock interviews. I basically predict the questions that I’m going to be asked, and then I sit down and have someone fire those questions at me. I respond to them, and that basically increases my confidence. In relation to a telephone interview, it’s a little bit different because you shouldn’t be as nervous as you would be in a face-to-face interview, but having said that, they can still sometimes be quite stressful. Therefore, you need to prepare effectively.
The module content
What am I going to teach you and talk to you about?
Well first of all we’re going to look at what a telephone interview is so you can get an understanding of what the person assessing you is looking for. That brings me to the next thing, which is “What are they looking for?” If we know what an interview is, we can basically dissect and explain what the interviewer is looking for on the telephone. Now it might be a member of the organisation that you’re applying for who is interviewing you, or sometimes larger companies will outsource a telephone interview to a recruitment agency. It doesn’t matter who’s carrying out the telephone interview; what is important is how you come across and obviously how you respond to the questions. We’ll also take a look at how you can prepare for the telephone interview, and I’ll also provide you with a number of sample questions and tips on how to answer them.
Let’s get straight into it.
Now, why do you think companies have a telephone interview?
Well, it can be for a number of reasons. I would say, if I’m really honest, one of the main reasons an organisation will have a telephone interview is that they don’t want to meet hundreds or scores of applicants face-to-face. If they do that, then it can be extremely time-consuming and expensive. A telephone interview can last, say, 5 minutes, sometimes they will go on to maybe 20 or 30 minutes; but they don’t have to meet someone. They can put someone in a room and tell them, “I want you to ring up these people, put them through an interview, ask them a number of questions, and if you think they are suitable then they can move to the next stage.”
So in harsh terms, it’s basically a sifting process, and because it’s a sifting process, sometimes some candidates don’t really take it that seriously. Obviously you are going to take it seriously, and you need to prepare for a telephone interview as seriously as you would for a face-to- face interview. Especially nowadays, there are many hundreds of applicants for many different jobs and the competition is fierce, therefore you need to be on the ball. You need to prepare fully for it, which I’m sure you’re going to do.
They basically have a telephone interview as a sifting process, but it can also be used when a candidate has to travel a long way and they don’t want to put the candidates through that hassle. When there are a large number of candidates, it is a process used to whittle down the candidates to those who are suitable to go through the process. I’ve personally interviewed hundreds of people for different jobs in the past, and sometimes I have thought to myself, “What are you doing here?” It would have been better for that person to have a telephone interview, because they clearly didn’t have the skills, attributes, or qualifications to carry out the role.
An application form is a great way of assessing people, but you don’t actually have any interaction. Therefore, as an assessor, it is very difficult to ascertain whether that person is suitable. That’s another reason people have telephone interviews. So, an example of when a telephone interview would be used is when screening by CV is difficult, when, for example, personality is more important than experience or qualification. That can be in different types of roles such as customer service roles or customer service assistants. Obviously a good personality is important in these fields. This is true especially in sales as well; if you’re required to be a sales representative, then you need to be a confident person, a positive person, and someone who is good at dealing with people. I’m very good at dealing with people, but I’ve never been in a sales role, and to be honest, I don’t think I’d like to be because I think you need to be quite a confident person. So, I think that kind of role wouldn’t be suited for me. I’m more suited for a managerial role or a training role.
Sometimes screening by CV can be difficult. When a large part of the job will involve talking to people on the telephoned many jobs are like that nowadays, like those in customer service centres, those kind of roles will definitely have a telephone interview. So it’s not just about you responding to the questions, but it’s about how you come across. Hopefully you will feel that I’m talking to you in a concise and succinct manner; I’m not waffling, you can hear me, I’m clear to speak to, and I’m generally quite positive. Obviously, if I was talking to you in a monotone way and not very exciting, then you wouldn’t feel that you were getting value from me in terms of a teacher. Try and put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s interviewing you; you obviously want them to be positive, and the interviewer wants you to be positive. So therefore, you need to be as positive as possible on the telephone, and I’ll come back to that later. Those are the reasons why an organisation will have a telephone interview.
So what is a telephone interview?
You may think, “Well everybody knows what a telephone interview is.” Yes, that could be the case, but let’s explore it since it will help you to prepare more effectively. It’s basically the first stage of a selection process. Sometimes it comes directly after an application form, but it’s basically the first stage for them to get a feel for what you’re like as a person. It obviously assesses whether you have basic skills, qualities, and attributes. Let’s think about those for a second: basic skills, qualities, and attributes.
How do you know whether you have those?
Well basically it’s in relation to the job description or the person specification. Now those two, and I would write these down, the job description and the person specification are very, very important. They are basically the blueprint to your success. You need to get a copy of them before you actually go for your telephone interview. They give us a number of key clues. Let’s just take a quick look now at a sample job description. This is for an office and facilities manager.
If you look at the primary responsibilities here, it lists answering incoming calls, taking and passing on accurate messages using the most efficient message service appropriate. So you could get asked a question during the telephone interview such as
“Can you give an example of when you’ve answered incoming calls?
How did you take on and pass accurate messages?
What did you do to make sure that the information was accurate?”
You could say, “Well, when I was working in a previous role, I was actually answering incoming calls, and in order to make sure I passed on accurate messages I would write down the information that I was receiving and I would then verify with the person I was speaking to make sure it was accurate. I was basically cross-checking the information that I had.”
So here’s another part of the primary responsibilities, to greet and welcome visitors. If that was in a job description, I would be preparing a response for a question such as
“Can you give an example of when you’ve had to greet and welcome people?
How did you make them feel comfortable?
What did you say to them?”
And they might even say, “Would you give us an example of what you would say to me if I was coming into your shop or coming into your center?” I would say something like, “Nice to meet you, my name is Richard. Just to let you know, you’re going to be more than welcome to stay here. Please make yourself at home. Can I take your coat? Would you like a drink while you wait to be seated?”
Next, we see another responsibility is to assist the team with tight deadlines, for example, photocopying, preparation, collation, and binding of documents. Again, another question that you could be asked:
“Can you give an example of where you’ve assisted or worked in a team environment?”
So the message which I’m trying to get across to you here is that if you get a copy of the job description or the person specification, then you are certainly going to have more of a chance of passing because you can basically predict the interview questions that you are going to get asked. So I would get a copy of that JD and that person specification, and I would get a highlighter pen and highlight the key areas and the key requirements.
Then I would think of sample questions that I could get asked and prepare responses to them. Okay, so basically a telephone interview is a brief assessment of your skills, motivations, and knowledge; and as I already mentioned, they are looking to hopefully invite you along to the next stage. But they don’t want to waste your time and they certainly don’t want to waste their time, because it costs them money to put you through a selection process. So you need to be motivated, and you have to have the right skillet and the knowledge and motivation. So what do you need to know?
You need to research in relation to the role, and that can be done by reading the job description and the person specification. You may want to ring up the company before you have your telephone interview and just say to them, “Is it possible for me to come along and speak to a member of staff there who is carrying out a similar role, to find out what it’s like?” You can take along a notepad and then find out exactly what the role is about and the skills it requires. But you should be able to find that on the job description and the person specification.
You also need to know a little bit about the company that you’re applying to join.
What is the company like? Have they won any awards? Where do they operate from? What is their USP? A USP is their Unique Selling Point. So during the telephone interview, when they say to you “Tell us about our company,” you could say “Well, you carry out these services and these functions, and you supply to different companies across the world. You operate out of these different areas,” and give them the areas they operate out of, “the company has so many employees,” so if it has 900 employees, you could say that, “the unique selling point of the company is to provide excellent communication and customer service skills to the general community.” So know about the company, and you can do that generally by going on their website.
I would also strongly recommend that you have a look at a company’s mission and vision. You should be able to find those on their website. So find out what their mission and vision is, and learn it. So again, if they say to you, “Tell us about our company,” you could say “Well your mission is x y and z.” They may have goals and objectives, they may have a charter. If you’re applying for a customer services role, I would find out what the customer service charter is, and I would learn it by heart and be able to recite it during the telephone interview. Anything like that that you can come up with, will certainly give you good points, and they’ll think “Hey, this person has found out lots about our company. Let’s get them to a face-to-face interview or an assessment center. “You need to know the requirements of the role. It’s pointless applying for a job if you don’t know what the requirements are, because they may say to you “Tell us what the requirements are, tell us what experiences you have that are relevant to the role.”
I’ve already mentioned about the person specification; think about your experiences; and again, that goes back to using your highlighter pen and highlight the different areas of the person specification that are relevant to the role. So if you need to be good on the telephone, think of an example when you’ve done that in the past. If you have to deal with customers, it’s likely that you’ll have to deal with a complaint. How did you deal with a complaint? You deal with complaints by listening to the customer, involving the customer as much as possible, sympathize with them, apologize if the company is actually in the wrong, and then set about your resolution.
Tell them what you’re going to do, how you’re going to resolve the situation for them, check that they are happy with your resolution, then follow up a day or two later to see that the person is happy with what you’ve done. That’s how you would deal with complaints. They are bound to say to you, “Tell us why you’re applying for this role.” I’ll come to that in a little while when we look at some sample questions, but that is a very simple question, yet it is one that many people fall down on. They may say, “Well, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.” That’s fine, but have a bit more creativity. Think of a better reason why. You could say that you’ve been studying different roles, and this job caught your attention because you have these skills, you believe you’re perfectly matched to this role because you’ve had these experiences in the past, you’re enthusiastic in this role, you love dealing with people, and you believe that you can bring a lot to the company and achieve your targets. Be a bit more passionate about it. What can you offer them?
They might ask this, or “Why should we give you the job as opposed to the next person?”
And in relation to that, I’d be thinking about positive key words and phrases. So when I’m talking, I’d be saying “I’m an enthusiastic person, I’m very confident, I’m quick to pick up different skills, I always make sure that I keep on top of my training, I make sure that I read company policies and always abide by the rules.” So make sure that you are positive when responding and explaining the different things that you can offer. Your strengths? Well responding to that is quite easy. Obviously the more difficult question is “What are you weaknesses?” and I’ll give you tips on how to respond to that later. But I would say in relation to your strengths, you need to think about the strengths that actually match the person specification and job description. So again, with your highlighter pen, look at the qualities and skills. If one of them is “dealing with people on the telephone,” you could say “One of my strengths is actually dealing with people on the telephone.
At my last company, I was constantly praised during my appraisal for dealing well with customers.” And also explain why you will be good for that role, and only you will know that reason. So make sure you carry out plenty of preparation. So let’s have a look, what are they looking for? Well they want to see whether you have the right knowledge, skills, attributes, desire, and motivation for the role. If you do have all of these, then you will be invited to attend the next stage. One important word there, I think, is very important during telephone interviews, and that is the word “desire.” I have a passion for teaching people, I want you to pass your telephone interview, and I mean that. I have a desire for helping people. When you are talking to the interviewer on the telephone, have desire for the role. Be passionate about it. I know it’s very difficult to get a job nowadays, but be passionate. The reason I say that is because desire and passion are contagious–people pick up on them and they feel it and feed on it.
So if you try and think of a situation when you were in school, and someone’s giving a lecture, can you remember someone who was really rubbish at giving lectures?
The reason might be, not that they weren’t very good at the subject, but because they didn’t have much desire or passion for it. You need to be motivated, you need to come across in a positive manner, and that accounts for half of the battle to get through the first stage. It’s okay to have all the answers to their questions, but if you come across down or depressed or feeling sorry for yourself, then you’re probably not going to be invited back. So concentrate on desire and being passionate about the role. So how do we prepare for our telephone interview? Interview questions and responses. As I’ve mentioned before, I think it’s important to use the job description and person specification to try and find out or try and match the kind of questions that you could get asked. I have always done this in the past when going to interviews, and I would generally say I’ve been successful with 80% of the questions that I predict. Yes of course, sometimes there are questions that come out and I think, “I wasn’t expecting that,” but for 80%, I can predict them. And it’s easy for you to do the same. Another thing is to have a look online and try and find some online chat forums. There are hundreds of chat forums out there that you will be able to find. Let’s say you’re going for a job as a bank cashier. If you type in “bank cashier interview chat forum,” something might come up on a major search engine, and they will be able to give you the types of questions that they were asked.
That’s a way of predicting the questions that you might be asked during your telephone interview. Have your CV to hand because they might say to you, “Talk me through your CV.” Now you don’t have to go in-depth, but the beauty of telephone interviews is that you can have documents with you. When you go to a face-to-face interview, they don’t generally allow you to have those documents that you can read from. A tip there is to be ready for the interview questions, because you can already have sample answers laid out in front of you. I would just have bullet points. You don’t want to be reading parrot-fashion, because they’ll be able to tell if you are and you don’t want that. You need to come across as natural, but have your CV to hand. Preparing in terms of the time and location: if they say “We’re going to call you at 10:00 on Thursday morning,” make sure you’re in a suitable location. You don’t want to be in the supermarket, shopping at Tesco’s or Asda, walking down aisle number 9 with your shopping trolley, waiting for someone to ring you up. You can have lots of distractions and they’ll be able to pick up on that, so make sure you are in a quiet location. That might mean if you’ve got children at home, you might want to get someone to look after them whilst you’re having your telephone interview. So think carefully about the time and location.
Have a note pad and a pen at the ready, because they may give you certain information that you need to take a note of. I would also take a note of the questions that you are asked, because you might get asked them during the face-to-face interview. I would have bullet points to remind you of how to answer the questions. As I mentioned earlier, don’t have it parrot-fashion, written out in front of you just have bullet points that you can look at, because if you have it all written down in front of you, you’ll be searching for your question and they’ll be able to hear you shuffling the papers around. You don’t want that, so just have bullet points of how you’re going to respond. Have notes of the questions you may wish to ask yourself, because they’re going to say to you at the end, “Do you have any questions that you wish to ask us?”
It’s generally quite good practice to ask one or two questions.
I’ll give you a couple in a second of what you can ask, but don’t generally go overboard. So, if they ask if you have a question and you say, “Yes, how long will it will be before I find out if I’ve been successful?” and they reply that you’ll know tomorrow, don’t keep going on and on. You don’t have to ask questions to impress them. That is an important point; don’t ask technical questions or questions that you think will impress them. They’re not that fussed. They will have made up their mind by that point whether you’re going back, so you don’t have to ask questions. I’ve done that before. If they say to me, “Do you have any questions?” I might say, “No it’s okay, I did have some at the beginning but you’ve answered everything that I need to know, and I’m looking forward to hopefully coming to a face-to-face interview.” Have a copy of the person specification next to you.
This is a quick win. If they say, “Tell us about the role, what are the skills and qualities required to carry it out?” you’ve got the information there in front of you. So think about how you will answer the phone. I’ll be honest, if somebody rings me up on my mobile phone, I’ll generally answer it and say “Hi.” When they’re ringing up to interview you, that’s a little bit different. A company might ring you from a number that you don’t recognize. It might be a withheld number if it’s coming through on your mobile, but I would certainly answer the phone in a positive manner. If it was me, I would say, “Hello there, Richard McMunn speaking, how can I help you?” Don’t just say, “Hello.” You need to be quite positive and start off on the right foot. You might want to actually print off a sheet of paper that says “Be positive” with a smiley face next to it in big bold capital letters and stick it on the desk in front of you when you’re carrying out the interview. That will remind you to stay positive. Remember, 50% of the battle is being positive and passionate about the role.
Remember that word “desire. “Also, be in a reception area. You don’t want, and I’ve done this before, when I’ve been interviewing people on the phone, they’re in a bad reception area, and then they lose the bars on their phone. I am presuming you’ll be using a mobile phone since most people do. It’d be better to have a landline, because then you haven’t got the problem of going out of reception; but if you do have the interview on a mobile, make sure you’re in a full reception area. The last thing you want is for it to go dead, so make sure your phone is also charged. You don’t want the battery running out, it would be horrendous. Also, no distractions, I’ve mentioned earlier on, if you’ve got children, make sure they’re looked after. If you’ve got pets, you don’t want the dog barking when the postman comes and delivers the mail. They’re all just little things but they do go a long way to making sure that you are fully prepared. Some really important tips: how to answer the phone. As I’ve mentioned, if it was me, I’d say, “Hi there, Richard McMunn speaking, how can I help you?” You know it’s going to be them, and they’ll say “Oh hi Richard, my name’s Brian, I’m here to interview you.” “Oh hello Brian, nice to meet you.” So make sure you are really positive. Be enthusiastic and positive throughout, I think that is really, really important. Don’t waffle, either. I know it’s difficult sometimes, because you are going to be nervous; they will accept that, but try and be succinct, don’t rush, answer the questions.
Always be positive, but don’t waffle. And also avoid using jargon. Some people feel that they need to impress the interviewer. I can’t understand this. They don’t have to. You can impress them with your responses, but don’t try to impress them with jargon that you know about their company and their organization. If you’re going to talk about their USP, say “Your USP, your unique selling point, is x y and z.” Always be polite and respectful. If it was me and I was talking to an interviewer, I might say “Oh hello sir, nice to meet you.” They are going to say, “No it’s okay, you don’t need to call me sir, you can call me” and give you their preference. Just be polite. If they invite you to use their first name, then use it. That’s okay, but don’t overuse it. Don’t become too familiar.
At the end of the interview, you don’t want to ask “So what have you got planned for the weekend, anything nice?” You need to be serious, you need to be formal, but obviously you can use their name if they let you. Still I would start off by using Mr. or Mrs. and their surname. So use the other person’s name regularly throughout the conversation, but not all the time. If they’re asking you questions, you don’t want to be saying “Well, Mr. Brown,” all the time, but you can use it so that you remember their name. That’s also why you need to have a note pad in front of you, so you can write down their name. Also, and this is very important, use the company name a few times. For example, “I want to work for XYZ Ltd. because of.” It shows that you’re really focused on their organization.
Let’s have a look at some questions that I would recommend you prepare for. “Can you please tell me a little about yourself?” That’s generally a starting question. “Tell me about you, tell me about yourself.” If I was responding to that question, I again would be using the qualities that I’ve got that are relevant to the role. Let’s say that I’m applying for a position as a customer services assistant. I would say, “As you know, my name’s Richard, I’m 39 years old, I’m a very positive and enthusiastic person. I have a very good educational background that involves dealing with people, I’ve got a customer services qualification, an NVQ in customer service, and I’m very passionate about dealing with people. I like to keep myself educated and at the moment, I’m studying for a diploma in management because I would like to develop myself. I’m also a very positive person, I like to keep myself physically fit and active. I’m a stable person, I come from a family background, I’ve got a daughter who’s 18 who I love very much. In my spare time, I spend time down the gym or with my family.”
So you can see the kind of thing that I’m trying to come up with. I’m trying to paint a picture that I’m an educated person, I like dealing with people, I’m nice to be around, I keep myself fit (because if you are fit, that means that you’re less likely to be prone to stress or going off sick, which can be a problem for many companies. I’m a family man which means I’m stable, so I’m more likely to stay in the role. Just keep it brief, but try and put yourself in a positive manner. “Why did you apply for this position?” I can almost guarantee you will be asked this. Many people now apply for loads and loads of jobs, and I call them “serial job applicants.” That’s not a horrible thing, it’s just a fact that they want a job and they don’t really care what it is. This is why they’re asking for this kind of response, to see the reasons why you’re applying for the position.
If I was applying for a customer service role, I’d say “I’ve applied for this position because I genuinely feel that I’ve got the skills and qualities that match this. I’ve been looking around for a different challenge, and this job jumped out at me because it requires you to be good with people which I like doing, there’s an element of stress involved, which I like. I don’t want to be in a job where I’m sat down behind a desk, just doing nothing all day. I like the challenge of actually meeting different targets, because that’s what I’m like. I like to have different challenges and I always rise to them. I also noted in this company that you’re very professional, and there’s a chance for me to progress. There are promotion opportunities, and after a few years, hopefully, when I’ve gotten at this job, I’d like to apply for different positions.” So I’m coming across in a positive manner, and I’m giving genuine reasons why I want to apply. “How would you summarize your main skills?” I would match the job description and the person specification, so I would highlight them down, and then state what these are. “Dealing with people. I’m a great supportive team member. I keep myself physically fit, I’m a great communicator both verbally and in writing. I’m great at supporting people and great at dealing with complaints.”
“What projects have you undertaken lately?”
If the role you’re applying for is project-driven, then have a good example of a project that you’ve undertaken. It could be academic, it could be something it work, but it might be something at home, and there’s nothing wrong with saying “Well actually, to be honest, in the last 6 weeks, I have a project that is ongoing at home, which is totally refurbishing my house or decorating. So I’ve been going around the house, decorating each bedroom. I’ve got an action plan that I use. This week, I’ll make sure that I decorate the kitchen, once that’s done I’m going to move on to the bathroom.” That’s just a random type of response or scenario, but the point is it demonstrates that I’m organized. I’m using an action plan and it keeps me organized, use those keywords. “What do you know about our company?”
Make sure that you go on the website that you’re applying for and find out as much as possible about the company that you are applying for. Find out about key people. How many people work for them? Whereabouts do they operate? How long have they been going for? Have they won any awards? What is their mission? What is their vision? Do they have any aims and objectives? Do they have a customer service charter? You can find all of that information on the website. Also find out who the chief executive officer is, the managing director who is responsible at that company. “What are your reasons for considering leaving your current job?” What you don’t want to do, and I’ve had this before, someone once said to me, “Well I don’t really get along with my boss. He doesn’t want me there, and I’d like to move on.” Immediately I’m thinking, “Okay that might be the case, but why would I want to employ you if you’ve got a problem going on at work?”
If that is the case, and you’re fed up with your job, that’s fine–but don’t say it. This is a big piece of advice. Even if I didn’t like my job, I would say “To be honest, I’ve really enjoyed my position. I work for a great company at the moment. But I’m looking for a fresh new challenge. I’ve been doing this job for X amount of time, I feel now I’m ready to move on, and your company jumped out at me. When I saw the job advert, I thought this would be a fresh new challenge and something different for me.” You may have different reasons for wanting to leave your current employment, but be very careful when responding to that kind of questions, especially if it relates to something like a grudge going on, or if you’ve got problems at work. I’m not saying that these problems that you may have aren’t genuine, because I’m sure they would be. But just put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s interviewing you. How do they feel about your response? So be very positive and upbeat about the company that you’re considering leaving. That’s all I will say.
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
I’ve heard some strange responses to this question in the past. Someone once said “I want to be where you are.” I was a district manager at the time, I was quite high up and they said “I want to be where you are.” First of all, it wasn’t achievable in 5 years, but secondly I thought it was a little too overconfident. I would have much preferred that person to say “Well to be honest, I’d love to aspire to your position. But in the meantime, I’m going to make sure that I’ve prepared for the job well. I’m going to become respected amongst my peers in the organization. I’ll be a really good worker, someone who is positive, and then hopefully get progression.” So if I was responding to that question, I would say “Well I hope I’m working for your organization. I’d work towards being a respected member of the team, somebody who is seen as someone who can achieve their targets, who has excellent company appraisals. I would like to progress in the organization, but I want to make sure that I’m very good and competent in the role that I’m in before I move up.” And that’s a great response to that kind of question. “What can you bring to this company?”
Again, think of positive keywords. “I can bring you freshness and alertness, a level of enthusiasm, somebody new into the team. I believe that I can motivate people. I’m a great communicator. I’m a quick learner, somebody who can adapt. I’m reliable, I’m flexible, I won’t go off sick. I feel I can really put my heart and soul into the organization.” If you’ve got examples in the past of actually achieving things whilst in that role, then tell them what they are. If you’ve won any awards or you’ve gotten any great appraisals, tell them about these appraisals. “Please tell me about your salary expectations.” This can be a tricky one.
Some people go in too low and some people go in too high. I would say be honest. If you genuinely think that at the moment, your salary expectations are not too high or you’ve not had that many jobs, you could say, “Well, I’ve not had many jobs” or “This is my first job, therefore I’m prepared to work at a lower end of the salary,” whereas if you have a lot of experience, then ask for a higher salary. The key to this is to make sure you’re honest, not just with them but with yourself. Say it’s a job for 20,000 pounds, and the salary range is 16,000 to 20,000. If you go in and say that you want 20,000, they’re going to come back and say, “Why are you worth 20,000?” If you can back it up, and you’ve got proven targets that you’ve done in the past or you’re fantastic in your role, then great. But again, the key is to put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s employing you. Don’t go too low, and don’t go too high unless you are really, really worth it.
“What do you know about the role?”
Again, you can find that out from the person specification. “What are your strengths?” Again, I would play on my strengths that are relevant to the job description and the person specification. “I’m a great communicator, I’m great at dealing with people.” If you can give examples, then make sure you do. You can say, “I’m great at working with people. For example, at my last job I was always put in as temporary supervisor whilst the manager was off on leave or when he or she was away for whatever reason. That’s what my strengths are, I’m good at dealing with people and the company recognized that. “What are your weaknesses?” You can answer this in one of two ways. You can be honest and give a weakness. You might not be good at turning up to work on time; if that’s your weakness, don’t say it.
Also in terms of sickness, that’s not very good. I run my own company. In the past I’ve had people going off sick and you can’t afford it. It’s one of my pet hates. Genuine sickness, no problem whatsoever, but when you’re off sick all the time, companies are clamping down on this nowadays. Hopefully this won’t be your weakness. So what are your weaknesses? Don’t say “I don’t have any,” because I would suggest anyone who says that is lying. You need to think of something that is going to put you across in a positive light. In the past, when someone has asked about my weaknesses; and this is a genuine one, I would say, “Sometimes, I can get a little bit irate with people when they are late for meetings or don’t match my expectations in terms of deadlines. Sometimes I need to curb that. I might express my dissatisfaction that they are late, or that the goods that I’ve ordered are late. I’m always trying to improve myself in that manner and not always say something.
But in some ways that’s a positive aspect, because I am a genuinely caring person. If I ask for something to be done, I need it to turn up on time.” So I’m turning my weakness around to a strength. Try and think carefully about that weakness that you have. “Do you have any questions you wish to ask us?” At the end, they may ask this; if that’s the case, you may ask something such as “Is there the opportunity for progression?” That shows that you are enthusiastic and motivated. Also you might ask “How long would it be before I start if I’m successful?” That shows me that you’re raring to go. As I said earlier, don’t ask questions that try to paint you in a positive manner in terms of knowing more than them, because that doesn’t work. No interviewer wants to hear that.
And if you haven’t got any questions, just say, “No, thank you very much for answering all my questions, it’s fine, I don’t have any. And thanks for interviewing me.” Your final statement is very important. At the end of the interview, what are you going to say? I would say something like, “Thanks very much for interviewing me today. It certainly sounds like a job that I would very much enjoy. I’m sure I can contribute a lot to your company, and I’d love the opportunity to visit you and show you what I can do. I’d love the opportunity to attend the next stage.”
That’s the kind of thing that you could say, something like that. So make sure you are very, very positive during the interview. Telephone interviews are generally quite short in length, but if you prepare for those questions and follow the tips that I’ve provided, you won’t go too far wrong