5 Things That Go Wrong In Phone Interviews

The infinite loop

Normally a phone interview will start out with a very generic questions, let’s say that you applying to company X for division Y. I am willing to bet that they will start out with “Why X/Y?”, now these questions are very easy to prepare for, as you can see them coming a mile off, but it important to make sure you have said them out loud to someone and practiced them or else the infinite loop can occur. It goes something like this: I applied to division X as I really like it because I am very passionate about what they do because I really like it because I am very passionate.. etc etc.

Now obviously people don’t literally say it this bad, but you catch my drift. You can catch yourself doing this and can start to panic as you realise that you are repeating yourself and then you get yourself very flustered.

The best bet is to bullet point you preparation materials in such a way that our answer goes in a structured direction, also as I mentioned before talk through your answers with a friend.


Setting yourself up for a fall

This one is pretty explanatory to be honest. Differing from the infinite by rather than repeating yourself you run out of things to say at all. This doesn’t normally happen when you start to answer a question, rather it will happen when you are giving examples or explaining answers in greater detail. For example “In X’s Sales and Trading division they use technologies such as Z and errrrmmmmm,,,”, here the person knew one technology for sure and had gambled that they could remember another.

I don’t really know why people pretty much self-sabotage themselves like this but it is surprisingly common. My main tip to avoid it is to make sure you have a clear idea as to how much depth you will speak about a certain area as soon as you start answering the question as this slip up can be the most crushing of all.


Reading from a script

Again, pretty self-explanatory, sounding like a robot without realising is a pretty bad thing that can go wrong. The reason that you don’t notice how you sound and how broken your sentences are is because you are too busy reading rather than listening to yourself and being self-aware of the dying rapport between you and the interviewer.

This lack of awareness can be costly, because often a question asked can be similar to one you have prepared but not exactly the same. As a result you can go off on a rather large tangent away from the original question and find yourself out in no-mans land. So battle this I’d say avoid writing full answers down and instead bullet point your prepared materials.


Getting caught out

Do not ever say something like “I have a keen interest in the markets” without knowing the value of the FTSE100. Likewise don’t go saying you watch the Eurozone closely when you don’t know who Mario Draghi is. If you make a claim and they then question you on it, which they are extremely likely to, and you don’t know then you will make yourself look like an idiot quite frankly.

Make sure you have a copy of your cover letter and CV in front of you to ensure that everything you ever mentioned you know about, also check some of the aforementioned figures so that you can act upon your claims.


Not asking a question at the end

Although this is hardly a terrible thing to happen, it is pretty much common knowledge that you should ask something at the end of an interview. It is your chance to stand out and also for you to gain knowledge. It’s same way that if you are at an event and have something to add you should ask a question at the end. Common things to ask are: “What attracted you to the firm?”, “Where do you see the industry going?” and “Given the confidentiality that takes place in investment banking, specifically in M&A and the with the Chinese Wall, how do employee shadowing opportunities work?”


Thanks very much,


George Wynne

George Wynne

Currently studying at the University of Warwick.
Also Head of Alternative Investments and Head of External Relations.