Inviting candidates in for an interview is a huge investment – both for the interviewer and the interviewee. On paper, you could be the most talented person in the world, with every skill the job role requires, but if you don’t fit with the company’s culture, you won’t be happy at work and you’re unlikely to make it past your probationary period.
To make this initial assessment, many estate agencies and property companies choose to perform a pre-screening telephone interview. Positioned as an ‘informal chat’, they typically last 15-20 minutes and your sole objective should be to secure that face-to-face interview.
The following are our top tips for coming out on top, and while many may seem to be common sense, you’d be surprised at how often they’re overlooked.
1. It’s never an ‘informal chat’
Despite what anyone tells you, these pre-screening telephone interviews are not a relaxed opportunity simply to introduce yourself. Employers set such interviews up because they want to determine whether it’s worth them investing an hour of their time interviewing you in person.
From the second you say “Hello!” they’re judging your personality, attitude and whether they think you’re going to fit in with their organisation, so you need to be prepared from the outset. Treat this pre-screening as seriously as you would a face-to-face interview – it’s your chance to make a good first impression.
2. Be prepared
Like a face-to-face interview, your telephone interview will be scheduled in advance. However, the great advantage of telephone interviews is that you can have as many notes in front of you as you like, so whatever questions are thrown at you, you can have some pre-prepared notes at your fingertips.
It might sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have a copy of their CV, covering letter and the company’s job description in front of them when they take the call. You’re likely to be asked questions based on these documents, so make sure you have them easily available to refer to.
3. Think about the best place to take the call
Ideally, you should arrange to take the call on a landline, somewhere quiet and free from distractions. The trouble with mobile phones is that you’re reliant on having good reception – if the line is constantly dropping in and out the call is going to end up disjointed, and you’re not going to give the best first impression.
Of course, sometimes mobile phones can’t be avoided. In which case, make sure you’re somewhere that has good reception and your phone is fully charged – you don’t want it cutting out mid-call. To avoid being distracted during your telephone interview, turn off call waiting and tell people around you that you’re not to be disturbed.
4. Dress to impress
The interviewer won’t be able to see how you’re dressed during the telephone interview, but they will be able to hear it in your voice. If you dress for a professional environment, rather than in your PJs or loungewear, it affects your tone of voice. Similarly, if your posture is good – either sat upright or stood up, you tend to convey more confidence and enthusiasm. Added to this, people really can hear when you smile on the phone.
Throughout the telephone interview, make sure you speak at the right volume, speed and clarity so the interviewer can hear and understand what you’re saying. When we’re nervous, we tend to mumble, talk quickly or ramble to fill any silence so be conscious of this and keep it under control.
5. Research and practice
If you haven’t researched the company beforehand, how do you know that you want to work for them? And what sort of impression will it give the interviewer if you can’t answer a simple question like, “What do you know about us?”
There’s no excuse, particularly when you’ve had time to practice your answers, and can have notes written down in front of you.
6. Think about the question
During your pre-screening interview you’ll be asked some standard questions that allow the interviewer to determine whether you’re the person they’re looking for. However, before jumping in to answer these questions, take a moment to consider what you’re really being asked:
“Tell me about yourself” – the interviewer wants you to sell yourself, to provide a professional overview of what makes you an attractive candidate and why they should get you in for a face-to-face interview.
“What do you know about us?” – they’re testing whether you’ve done your research. If you really want this job, it’s likely you’ve gone beyond simply reading their website, so demonstrate this.
“Why are you interested in the role?” – you need to show why you think you’d be good at the role by relating your skills back to the job description, and by highlighting what’s special about working for that specific company.
“Tell me about your experience/qualifications” – you’ll be probed to check that you’re capable of doing the role. Even if you lack experience within property, think about the transferrable skills you possess from other roles.
“What are your salary expectations?” – this is one of the first questions recruiters ask since it can completely rule you out if the organisation can’t afford what you expect. But you don’t want to undersell yourself either. If you can, it’s best to avoid answering this question at the pre-screening stage. Flip it round to talk about how you’re more interested in the company and the opportunity, or reassure them that from your research it’s clear that the company offers a fair and competitive salary.
“Do you have any questions for us?” – even if you’re not sure whether the person you’re talking to has all the answers, it’s important to have some questions prepared. For example, ask about training and chances for professional development. Of if you’re feeling brave, what the next stage in the process is and when you’ll know if you’ve been successful.
7. Say thank you
Thanking your interviewer for their time is common courtesy but you’d be surprised how many people forget to say thank you. Being polite goes a long way at interview, and even if you’re not quite right for this role on this occasion, the company might have something for you in the future, or recommend you to someone in their network. If you have their email address, we’d even recommend following up your telephone interview with a message to say thank you afterwards to keep you at the forefront of their mind.
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As one of the UK’s leading estate agency recruitment consultancies we pride ourselves on delivering everything you need to make a successful career move within, or into, the property industry. Whether you’re looking for CV templates, salary benchmarking or further advice on interview technique, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at our current roles to get started.