How to NOT sound professional on a telephone interview – Recruiter nightmares

How to NOT sound professional on a telephone interview – Recruiter nightmares (do not activate)

Sometimes it can be difficult for Recruiters to see exactly why someone might be right for the role, especially if some crucial information has been missed off their CV, (See our e-guides for CV writing tips) so a telephone interview is a great chance for us to uncover some of this information without asking you to take an entire day off work. This telephone interview is your chance to wow the interviewer and show them that they should definitely invite you in for a face to face interview.

Often the feeling I get from candidates I speak to is that there is no need to prepare as much for a telephone interview as you would for a face to face interview. I would disagree with this statement and say that for any interview, there is no such thing as too much preparation – ultimately, if you want this job, you need to work for it and you may be one of 15 candidates being screened for this role; you need to position yourself higher than the other 14 so any extra research you do can’t hurt. For any interview I would advise doing your homework on the company, doing your homework on the role being offered, and also your homework on yourself – this last one many people forget to do and then when it comes to answering questions about their experience, they are left stumped! Grab your CV, write notes, and ALWAYS have your CV in front of you at the time of your interview.

So you’ve prepared for the interview and the time has arrived, the phone rings, how do you answer it? All too many times I’ve conducted telephone interviews that go like this:

  • Candidate: Hello?
  • Me: Hello, is that Joe Bloggs?
  • Candidate: Yes, hi.
  • Me: Is now a good time?
  • Candidate: Yes, fine.

Now, this may be fine for an unexpected call but when you have had prior warning of the telephone interview taking place, it comes across as though you have forgotten, you’re too busy to take the phone call or you have no interest in the job you’re being interviewed for. This is possibly how you would want to answer the phone if you’ve been expecting the call:

  • Candidate: Hi, Joe Bloggs speaking.
  • Me: Hi Joe, this is Hannah Woodward calling from First 2 Recruit, is now a good time?
  • Candidate: Hi Hannah, yes it’s perfect – I’ve been expecting your call.

This approach shows you’ve been expecting the call and it sounds much more professional than the first one. As a Recruiter I want to know that the candidate is interested in the role, and that they want to be taking part in the interview, if the candidate is lacking enthusiasm and professionalism on the phone, it’s much less likely that they will be invited to a face to face interview.

Ok, so we’ve got the formalities out of the way, now for the actual interview. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asking Recruiters what their biggest bugbears are when it comes to telephone interviews and telephone manner, so here are the best ones…

Lack of preparation – this has already been mentioned but it deserves another mention. If you want the job, you need to show them how much you’re prepared to work for it. If your preparation consisted of checking out their website five minutes before, don’t be surprised if someone else gets the job over you. The job market is such a competitive market and often there are many candidates going for the same role who have the same amount of skills and experience; if they all fit the job spec and can all demonstrate they can do the job, the decision will be based on how well they interviewed and how well they will fit the company/ team etc. You only have this one chance to wow them and make a good impression from the start, so don’t blow it by not being prepared.


Smoking whilst on the phone – yes, we can hear you. We know you might only have a 15 minute break and you’re trying to fit everything in, but it really doesn’t come across as very professional when you’re on a telephone interview.


Loud voices in the background – not all noise can be helped but it’s best to tell your family or house mates that you’ll be taking part in a telephone interview so that they can keep the noise down a little bit. You want to be fully engaged in the conversation and not focusing on the person shouting down the stairs at you.


Bad signal – if you live in an area with little to no signal it may be best to give them your landline number to contact you on. If you don’t have a landline, I’d suggest travelling to an area where you know you’ll have good signal. If you can’t hear half of the questions being asked, you’re not going to be able to answer them properly.


Use of language – some interviewers will use techniques to get you to relax in order to get you to open up more and show what you’re really like; remember you’re still in an interview and offensive language (even when it’s not used as an offense) is inappropriate and will leave a bad taste in the interviewers’ mouth. No matter how nice the interviewer is, saying that your old Manager was a bit of a B**** is not going to win you brownie points and will probably leave you in quite a negative light.


Over familiarity with the interviewer – there is friendly and there is over familiarity. My colleague has just been telling me about a candidate who kept calling her ‘love’ whilst she was interviewing him. Whilst he was still a good candidate on paper and he still went on to be interviewed by our client, there is a level of professionalism that he did not display on his preliminary interview and this runs the risk of another candidate coming along with the same set of skills and a much higher level of professionalism who would be chosen for face to face interview ahead of him. Another one to avoid is ‘mate’ – I’m not sure how much an interviewer would appreciate being called mate!


About First2Recruit 

First2Recruit, are an owner managed recruitment consultancy providing a full recruitment service including; permanent and FTC positions in Accountancy Practice and Insolvency across the UK.  

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