Phone interviews: how do Exeter students handle them?

Being interviewed is a big part of application process for almost any graduate level job. But we’ve heard from some students that big employers are relying on phone interviews more than ever. How is a phone interview different from the usual suited-and-booted face-to-face affair, and what can you to do prepare?

Imogen, a second year English student, found that every internship she’s applied for has involved a phone interview. The interview stage might be daunting, but Imogen reckons she much prefers phone interviews over face-to-face. It’s easier to refer to notes and she can be in relaxed and comfortable surroundings when the phone rings.

Of course, there’s a risk of being too casual on the phone, so regardless of whether you’re wearing a suit or pyjamas, you should always remember to keep the tone polite and professional. It will help if you’re relaxed – but don’t talk to the interviewer on the other end of the phone the same way you would your best friend!

When it comes to preparing for a phone interview, Eleanor, a third year Geography student, agrees with Imogen about notes. Before her interview, she jotted down the key competencies the company was looking for on some revision cards. But, she says, “too many notes can distract you and you’ll just get confused!”

The trick then, is to make sure you really know your stuff about a company – and the sector they work in – before getting to the interview, so you can answer questions confidently and won’t be left rummaging through your notes at the last minute.

Before her interview with a logistics company, Imogen read a report about the logistics industry, and did a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the company (attending a Project Planning session could help you find out more about tools like SWOT analysis – and it counts to your Leaders Award).

Preparing and practising for a phone interview can also help you get your nerves under control – but there are some things beyond your control.

Things to watch out for in a phone interview include a busy or incommunicative interviewer; companies may use interviewers from external recruitment agencies who could have a checklist of standard questions to ask, or your interviewer may be pressed for time. There’s not much you can do in a situation like this – but from Imogen’s experience this is a time to sell yourself against the odds, by remaining calm, remembering your research and staying resilient.

We’ve even heard that some employers – including technology and grocery companies – are taking a high-tech approach to phone interviews – replacing them with recorded video interviews, where candidates speak into their webcam and their responses are recorded to be watched by an interviewer later.

Ellie’s advice for interviews like these is to stay friendly – remember to make eye contact with the camera, be as relaxed as you can, and try to smile! The interviewer will want to see your enthusiasm and knowledge, so do your best to make sure these shine through, even if you’re nervous.

How did Imogen deal with the nerves? “To keep myself calm I tried to look at it as if this was me interviewing the company. I wanted to see if I was a good fit with that role and that business.”

That’s good advice, regardless of how you’re being interviewed.

Sincere thanks to Imogen and Eleanor for their input.

 Josh Smith is the Career Zone’s Information and Systems Assistant.

Have you had any phone or video interviews? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments below.


Andy Morgan

Web Marketing Officer

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