Executive Telephone Interviews – Skills and Preparation

Executive Telephone Interviews

Executive telephone interviews are an excellent interview process for employers as a pre-selection method for screening and shortlisting potential candidates. The idea is to speed up the overall selection process with either an extended executive telephone interview lasting 45-50 minutes or a shorter 20 minute telephone conversation. Executive headhunters often lead this process as they are managing a wider executive search and selection process, plus it may take the nature of a conference call, role play or dealing with a particular business scenario. Executive telephone interviews may also include additional psychometric tests as part of the initial screening process.

Executive Telephone Interviews

Interviews over the telephone can help unlock potential opportunities for gaining a face-to-face interview. Therefore, it is an important opportunity to sell executive / leadership credentials, make an impression and stand out from others. To maximise chances, executive telephone interviews require advanced preparation and an overall strategy.

Telephone Interview Preparation

An interview is an interview whether face-to-face or over the telephone. This means a similar approach must be taken in terms of preparation. Analyse the job description for clues, anticipate likely questions, prepare some questions to ask (these are more general at this stage), research the company, make sure resumes are up-to-date and prepare good examples for answering questions.

Telephone Interview Questions

Broadly speaking, executive telephone interviews are trying to capture motivations for applying, what the candidate can bring to the company (evidence of suitability), understanding what attracts them to the company and initial salary expectations. Other questions may rely on asking about core strengthens / weaknesses, expectations surrounding the role and evidence of how the candidate would fit into the role (‘strategic fit’). Seek to anticipate / practice phone interview questions and answers.

Case Study Scenarios

Other telephone interview techniques for executives may include giving a scenario or case study, role play or something related to the business planning lifecycle. Questions and answers will be related to the scenario to gain further insights into executive decision-making rationale and understanding of core issues. These may be slightly longer and may have more than one person asking the questions during a conference call.

Answering Telephone Interview Questions

Choosing 5 or 6 credible examples that stand up to scrutiny helps with answering specific questions as executives are able to draw upon core experiences. With telephone interviews, executives can have notes prepared to help prompt answers. If there is a video call, make sure notes are hidden from view.

Impressive Telephone Manner

Executive telephone interviews must be conducted in a professional, engaging and proactive manner in order to make a favourable impression. Communication skills and the way candidates answer questions are going to be assessed, so speak clearly, confidently and assuredly.

Be Confident

Smiling down the phone, being confident and showing enthusiasm for the role is likely to get candidates further in the interview process than if using a monotone and unenthusiastic voice. Proactively answer questions rather than give incomplete answers. Standing up when taking the call can help energise the conversation that bit more. Have plenty to say but do not going into infinite detail (keep answers concise but with sufficient detail).

Clear a Space!

Having a clutter free environment helps executives to conduct the conversation more effectively. Equally, the environment must be distraction free and quiet, plus having the use of a desk to write notes. Include a glass of water, spare pen, copy of resume, notepaper and telephone charger (if on a mobile).

Silence / Pauses

Keep the conversation flowing and ask to clarify questions if unsure. Listen to what the person is saying and take a few moments to think of the answer before replying. Expect some pauses but keep these to a minimum. Avoid unnecessary ‘thinking’ noises and refer to notes if necessary to jog memory.

Take Notes

Expect to take notes, especially as these can be used for subsequent interviews as part of the recruitment process. It might highlight areas to prepare for next interviews, give clues about what the company is looking for, enables candidates to recite what was discussed and can be used as the basis for asking questions at interview further down the line.

Ask Good Questions

Questions at this stage should be general and not too tasking for the interviewer. Save the more precise questions for subsequent interviews. For instance, a good question to ask is about future interview procedures and assessments as this can give clues as to what to prepare for if selected for the next stage(s). Keep it to a maximum of 2 or 3 as time is going to be short. If stuck, we have a list of potential first interview questions for use in executive telephone interviews to give an initial idea on what to ask.

Closing Executive Telephone Interviews

This is just as important as the initial greeting. The idea is to leave a positive impression by giving a clear overview about ‘you’ as a candidate and what ‘you’ can offer. Reiterate a clear interest in the role and 2 or 3 top-level points about why you are most suitable.

Follow-Up Measures

Document the name and contact details for the interviewer (most likely included in an email invitation). This is just in case of any further queries or to gain feedback on interview performance.

Executive Telephone Interviews: Conclusion

Overall, it is best to prepare for executive telephone interviews in a similar manner to face-to-face interviews. We often find candidates go in there with different expectations and are too relaxed, so they do not perform. Take telephone interviews as seriously as face-to-face scenarios, prepare effectively and respond to questions with credible answers. It is not rocket science, though a little thought and preparation goes a long way! There are several phone interview do’s and don’ts to help with telephone interview preparation to give some useful guidelines to follow and fine-tune approaches. Other executive telephone interviews advice and skills from Forbes.com article.

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