Initial Interview (phone)


A phone interview is the second stage of the hiring process. When you receive a call from an interviewer, it implies that your resume has already passed the initial screening (also known as paper screening). You partially meet the requirements for the job posting, and all that remains is for you to demonstrate your language skills.

Suppose you have submitted your résumé online (or left it with the office receptionist). In that case, you should expect to receive a phone call. Prepare yourself.

An initial interview over the phone is short, mostly less than 5 minutes. For this reason, an applicant is under extreme pressure to make a positive impression.

Questions may vary, but the most basic are:

  1. Tell me something about yourself?
  2. Why do you want to work in a call center?
  3. What is customer service to you?
  4. How do you understand the call center industry?
  5. Tell me about your work experience?

The recruiter may also ask that you read from a newspaper or a book, or he may give you a random question designed to evaluate your ability to think quickly.

The key to acing an initial interview is preparation. You must research the organization and have a general idea of the job you are applying for (this information is on the job ad).  Studying about the company is called due diligence. It always helps to impress the recruiter. The last thing you want to do is to say “I don’t know” or “I have no idea” when the recruiter asks, “What do you know about our company?”

Despite the required preparation,  do not sound as if you are reading from a script. When a recruiter detects a rehearsed response, he will challenge you by asking an out-of-this-world question (aka WTF question).

Remember what I mentioned at the beginning of this article: when you send a résumé online, it is best to assume you will receive a call from a recruiter, therefore, answer professionally. “Hi, this is Seven, may I know who’s calling?” sounds better than “Heloh, sino toh? Bakit ka tumatawag?

When the call comes in, STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING. If you can’t hear the recruiter because of background noise on his or your end, tell him and call him back. If you don’t, you might not be able to talk to him again. As a general rule, get a commitment that either you or he will return your call at a specific time. If you cannot answer his call (for example, because of a medical emergency), apologize and thank the recruiter.

When you can make the call:

  • find a quiet corner
  • clear your mind
  • LISTEN carefully
  • speak clearly
  • if the recruiter speaks too fast, politely ask him to slow down
  • If you didn’t understand what he was saying, ask a clarifying question and confirm your understanding. Example: “The line was jumbled, you were asking me if…..am I correct?” – this is called paraphrasing or re-stating the concern and is a typical call center practice. It is an excellent tactic when dealing with a difficult-to-understand customer.
  • Speak in English from beginning to end. Observe proper grammar, pronunciation, diction, and intonation.
  • If a question is difficult and you are not ready, take a moment to think, use the re-state technique. The few seconds of re-stating give you the much-needed time to think about the answer.
  • Always have ready reading material (in English) nearby.
  • Never fake an accent. Gone are the days when call centers are looking for someone with an American accent (there is no such thing, by the way). Most call centers are looking for someone with a “neutral accent” (trainable).

The purpose of a first interview is to SELL YOURSELF; designs your responses so that you can demonstrate your abilities, talents, and experiences.

If you pass the initial interview, the recruiter is going to invite you for further testing. DO NOT GIVE A FALSE COMMITMENT. You might be blacklisted.  If you are not available on his proposed schedule, negotiate for the next viable one. If you cannot make it, call or SMS the recruiter and ask to be rescheduled at least two to three hours before your appointment. Below is a suggested format:

Hi. My name is Seven. I was interviewed by (name of the recruiter) last (date of interview) for the (title of the post), I’m scheduled to take the test on (date and time), sadly, I cannot make it due to (reason). May I ask to be rescheduled?

The details provided above make it easier for the recruiter to find your résumé and reschedule you. If you are no longer interested, tell the recruiter.

If you fail the initial interview, the recruiter will say, “Give us 24 to 48 hours to review your application. If you are qualified, you will hear from us.” – this indicates that you had failed the interview and should proceed to your next interview appointment with another company. (Remember what I said before if you passed the interview, the recruiter tells you.)

Permanently save the number of the recruiter.  If you are en route to the recruitment office and are lost, you can always call or SMS the recruiter for help/direction.

When the interview ends, pass or fail, do not forget to thank the recruiter for calling and interviewing you; this is being professional and mature. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions or clarifications (specifically about directions to the recruitment office); there is nothing wrong with thoroughness.

Good luck with your application.

Comment below if you have any questions.