Initial Interview (phone)


A phone interview is a second step in the recruitment process. Once you receive a call from an interviewer, this means that you resume has already passed the initial screening (aka paper screening), you partially meet the need for the job post, and what is left now is to get a glimpse your language skill.

Once you have submitted a résumé online (or left it at the office receptionist), it is best to assume that you will receive a phone call. Be ready.

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 you to read from a newspaper or a book, or he may ask you a random question geared towards testing ability to think quickly.

The secret to passing an initial interview is to prepare for it. That is, you need to research about the company you are applying for and have a general knowledge of the job you are applying for (this information is usually found on the job ad). This is due diligence, and is often necessary; you do not want to answer “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, DROP WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU ARE DOING. If you cannot hear the recruiter due to background noise on his or your side, say so, then call him back. You may not get a chance to talk to him again if you don’t.  As a general rule, get a commitment that either you or him will call back at very specific time. If you are unable to take his call (say, you are in the middle of an emergency), simply apologize and thank the recruiter,

When you are able to take 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 did not understand what he said, ask a clarifying question and confirm understanding (“The line was garbled, you were asking me if…..am I correct?” In call center practice, this is called paraphrasing or re-stating the concern and is an effective tool when dealing with a hard 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 gives you the much-needed time to think about the answer.
  • Always have a 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).

Remember that in an initial interview, the aim is to SELL YOURSELF, therefore, all your responses should be crafted in such a way that it will allow you to exhibit your skills, 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. This is Seven. I was interviewed by (name of recruiter) last (date of interview) for the (name 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 makes it easier for the recruiter to find your résumé and reschedule you. Professionalism dictates that if you have a change of heart or will no longer be available for testing, tell the recruiter to either put you in active file (if you still plan to apply in the future) or that you are no longer interested.

You will know if you have failed the initial interview, he will just use the generic line “Allow us 24 to 48 hours to evaluate application, and if you are qualified for the post, you will hear from us.” This is an automatic sign that you have failed the interview and should move on (Remember what I said before, if you passed, you will be invited for further testing.)

Always 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 matured. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions or clarifications (specifically about directions to the recruitment office), there is nothing wrong with being thorough.

Good luck on your application.

Comment below if you have any questions.

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