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.

12 thoughts on “Initial Interview (phone)

  1. HI TVB, not signing up for employment is not a basis for blacklisting an applicant. Since this is already a few years back, you need to re apply. Just advise your recruiter that you already had your job offer in 2012 as this will turn things in your favor. You can simply call them but I can already tell you need to re apply as the previous application is now invalid.

    Se7en

  2. Hi Se7en,

    I’d like to ask sana, do recruiters/ call centers keep your resume? If they do for how long kaya and for most call centers how many months after to re-apply? See, i’ve applied in 2012 sa isang call center in Mckinley Hill, Taguig. i had my J.O. but i cant remember if i did sign it at that time. But then i had to go back to the province because of an emergency. Hindi ko na pinush thru yung sa knila. I took another job in another bank in BGC. May chance pa ba na maka apply ako sa knila or blacklisted na ko? And how would i know if i am? Is there anyway that i can aak aside from going to their office? Thank you. Hope you can reply.

  3. Hello. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how their BI goes but I am assuming they follow the standard process.

    Since you have a loan with SSS via your previous company, the logical thing to do is to show your NEW HR the summary of your loan after you are hired. Naturally, the HR will see the new company. You will be lucky if they wouldn’t care about it.

    As I’ve mentioned in my previous replies/posts, declaring or not both carries a risk. If you decide to declare, the risk of getting dumped is real. To counter this, make sure you have multiple applications. This is true whether you went AWOL or not.

    Also, they will not “see” that you were terminated. The background investigation is limited to the character references that you will give them. Per my reading, the SSS and BIR are not allowed to reveal your list of companies to your current employer.

    Hope this helps.

    Se7en

  4. Hi Se7en! I need your professional advice on this. As bad as this may sound, I have gone AWOL with my previous company, and now I am up for an interview with Thomson Reuters today, Nov 2. The thing is, I’m not quite sure if I would include my previous company on my resumé. The catch here is that I’ve filed and had SSS Loan them. First, do you know how the background investigation of TR works (if they do it)? Second, should I include my previous company on my resume? I know that I can support my reason for leaving the company but I’m afraid they might see that I was terminated and eventually discontinue my application with them. Thanks a lot! 🙂

  5. Hi Des. I’m always happy to help. I just want to clarify what it is that you really need? You see, getting a call center job isn’t really that difficult, what makes it a real challenge is if the person is truly qualified for it. By this I mean “does the person have excellent communication skills? Or at least a trainable English?” This is something you need to answer and if you are unable to give yourself an evaluation, you can ask help from TESDA’s Call Center training programs available in your area or a friend, colleague, or a relative you can give you an honest to goodness feedback about your English skills.

    If your question is related to passing the call center interview, I encourage you to read my blog. If it is about where to find companies that have vacancies, you can visit either jobstreet, jobsdb, or you can join job fairs in your area.

    Finally, if it is about how to pass a call center interview, this blog offers your insights from cover to cover.

    Don’t hesitate to come back if you have more questions.

    Se7en

  6. pwd pong magpatulong kung panu aq makakuha ng call center job?u can txt me po if u want .here is my 09051701157

  7. Hi! Gusto ko lang magdagdag ng input regarding this topic (though phone interview un topic) I applied at Stellar 3years ago. I passed the initial interview, the typing speed test (at least 50wpm) and then I had another interview after the exam (I no longer remember if it was the final interview or not). Then after that, I was told that they will get back to me for the result of my application.
    During that time, a friend of mine is already working in the company under the same account that I was applying for and she said (source ko sa loob) that the company is currently “freeze hiring”.
    After two wks of waiting, I decided to go there in person and follow up about my application, unfortunately un receptionist lang nakausap ko and this is what she told me, “If you didn’t hear from us within the two wk period after your initial application, then you did not qualify.” I asked for confirmation if freeze hiring nga sila but she denied it.
    Ouch diba.
    So I moved on and accepted another job offer.

    On the third (or fourth) wk though, when I was already starting my training at the other company I applied for, I received a call from them asking when I am available to talk about the job offer.
    I was surprised kase I did not expect a call from them anymore. Ayun, I declined the offer and told them na I’m employed na.

    Moral Lesson: Pag meron ka na internal source (say for example freeze hiring nga un company, wag maniniwala agad sa receptionist kase most of the time hindi naman talaga nila alam ang happenings sa loob ng company) HAY.

    If you want to follow up on your application, ask the person who interviewed you (sa initial interview) or ask the test master (un nagco-conduct ng exams).

    I hope medyo makatulog tong input ko.

    Regards,
    Moon

  8. Hi. Thanks for leaving a comment/question and for visiting my blog.

    There really is no harm in being honest about this. For one, it really has no direct bearing to your application, except that if you are qualified, the recruiter will expedite your job offer in the hope of persuading you to sign it.

    There are two parts here:

    1. Telling them about your pending applications.
    2. Telling them about your job offers.

    Between the two, the second one is the most impacting because the more companies you mention here, the more qualified you are as a call center rep. Don’t lie about this, however. A recruiter is able to tell if you are qualified or not and will drop you like a hot potato if he or she determines that you are lying.

    Hope this helps.

  9. Hi,

    Is it ok to tell the interviewer the name of other companies i’m applying for when asked?

  10. Hi,

    Could you please hava a post about different positions(lowest to highest position available) in the Call Center, their job description, duties etc. So we can have a better view of its organizational system.

    Thank you.

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