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Some firms use a telephone interview as their first interview stage in order to further filter candidates after the initial application form filtering process.
The telephone interview may be carried out by a member of HR or the graduate recruitment team or even by someone from a third party company. Firms often give details of what to expect from each interview stage so be sure to research this so you know what is coming.
Most telephone interviews are 10-20 minutes although the odd one can run to around 30 minutes.
You will be asked various questions which are usually a mix of competency-based questions and career motivation questions. Some of the questions may well be similar to the questions you have already answered on the application form, for example:
- Why law?
- Why do you want to be a solicitor/commercial lawyer/etc?
- Why this firm?
- What do you hope to gain from training with this firm?
- What current commercial issue/news story have you been following in the news?
- What motivates you?
- What is your proudest achievement?
- Tell me about a time when [you demonstrated a particular competency, eg leadership, teamwork, creative thinking, initiative, working under pressure, working to a deadline, building relationships, delegating responsibility, you overcame a challenge, etc]
To answer the competency type questions be sure to revist the skills bank account exercise recommended in my eBook – let me know if you have not got a copy.
You may also be asked about your academic grades if they are not consistent. You may also be asked about what you have done in the past if you have not just come straight through the education system or if there are any obvious gaps in the chronology of your education and/or work history.
You may also be asked about the vacation scheme you attended at the firm if this is the case. Or you may just be asked about the work experience you have done elsewhere.
The interviewer will be recording your answers on a form or their computer so you may hear typing at the other end. This can also make it feel like quite a robotic exercise where it is difficult to build much rapport. They may not really respond to what you say and just keep diving in with the next question. Don’t let any of these things throw you.
You need to be a good listener when on a telephone interview so try to hone this skill in advance, or at least be aware that you need to concentrate and listen intently to the interviewer. Try not to interrupt the interviewer when they are talking.
Take your time and seek to talk slowly and pause slightly to gather your thoughts before you answer. Try to be silent when doing this rather than have lots of “um’s” and “err’s” in your answers.
You can have some bullet point notes prepared to refer to and help you construct your answers. Do not however have them written out in full as it will count against you if your answers sound too scripted.
As always, be sure to revisit your research on the firm in order to find clues as to what they are looking for in applicants. Then prepare for your interview and provide answers that give the firm what they are after.
Some other tips for telephone interviews:
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. If possible ask the employer to call you on a landline number so that you are less likely to be cut off during the interview. If you have to use your mobile, at the very least make sure that you are somewhere that has a good signal!
- Treat the telephone interview as if you were speaking to the employer in person. Speak clearly and evenly, use hand gestures as you would normally and smile whilst you are talking. All of these will help to convey a positive impression to the person on the other end of the telephone.
- Re-read your application and do some further research on the organisation that you have applied to. It’s always sensible to re-read the person specification and job description, that way you can anticipate the types of questions that you may be asked. Have paper copies of all of these documents to hand during your interview.
Here are some additional resources relating to succeeding at telephone interviews: