IT contractor guide to phone interviews

There's not much difference, in truth, between a great face-to-face interview and a great telephone interview: you still have to provide the client with evidence that you meet their key criteria - albeit with only one channel available: voice.

But let's not forget that the quality of your voice; it's emotional tone and brightness, still comes from your state of being, your attitude and your approach.


A telephone interview is generally part of a selection process after the CVs have been sifted down to a shortlist. It might be the first step before a full interview or the only means of deciding whether you get the contract.

Oddly enough, my first ever telephone interview was with a panel of six client interviewers in the US. I was sat in an office in Manchester and the interview lasted 30 minutes - I was on the plane two weeks later. Since then I have had a range of telephone interviews both as a contractor and a client; and probably learned more from the one's that didn't go so well.

Here are five fundamental aspects you need to remember that will stand you in good stead, for both international and domestic IT contracts:

1. Client Criteria

This is what the client is listening to you for evidence of:

Flexibility – as a supplier, will you do what they want?

Dependability – will you turn up each day?

Productivity – will you do what you say you can do?

Likeability – will you get on with the team and not rock the boat?

Affordability – do you come within their rate expectations or budget constraints?

Availability – when can you start?

The most important tend to be: Likeability, Productivity and Dependability. Though this can vary.

2. Prepare and Provide the Evidence

Whilst the Productivity criteria will be largely satisfied by the content of your responses, the Likeability and Dependability criterion will be satisfied by the manner of your responses and the stories you tell.

In this regard, be sure to have three or four stories of how you worked as a team to solve problems and get the project in on time. Get them clear in your mind and weave them into the conversation.

3. Have the Best Approach

Your voice reflects your mood and the client is listening for evidence of "likeability" - will you fit in? Are you a miserable bugger? Do you have a sense of humour?

Set yourself to really look forward to the conversation: to finding out what it's all about.

4. Make it a Conversation = Ask Questions

You'll know you're in the right positive frame of mind/mood when you feel there's a lot you want to know about the project/contract – you'll feel curious as hell.

In this mood, you'll have an excellent conversation and won't be bothered if something slips your mind or you get asked something outside your experience. Done in the right way, the client won't mind either – "Hey, you're a likeable person and I'm sure you'll pick it up" (is what they'll think).

5. Leave a Good Impression

Aside from the obvious no-nos, like eating while on the phone, that's about it apart from leaving your interviewer feeling like they had a good interview. In short, prepare some relevant and real stories, get curious as hell, ask questions, engage with the client and most important of all – enjoy it.

This article was authored by John Waine, The IT Coach.

ContractorUK has partnered with the UK's leading authority on Contractor CVs to provide a FREE review of your CV and LinkedIn profile. Contact The CV & Interview Advisors and one of their team will get back to you to discuss if your CV and LinkedIn profile matches up with industry best practice.

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