Part 3: Here come the interviews! The telephone interview:

I remember the first reply I got from one of the pharmaceutical industries I applied to for an industrial placement was a rejection email stating that unfortunately I was not suited for the role. It was a depressing moment as that was when I thought the rejections would come flooding through and it tastes just that more bitter when you know you’ve tried as hard as you could and put literally everything you had into that application and at the end of it you’ve been rejected.  But it was inevitable that I would be rejected from at least one place, that’s just the way it all works and learning to get over those initial rejections and continue applying after improving your applications is vital.

When you do get an invitation to an interview, first of all congratulations! You have passed the first hurdle in the application process. Some companies like to first give the applicants a quick telephone interview (15 to 20 minutes but can vary) before they invite them for an actual face to face interview. This can be exceptionally daunting and I can just imagine staring at the phone whilst it rang dreading what they would ask me. And I have a knack of coming across as quite awkward over the phone when my mind goes blank halfway through a sentence so I end up saying “so yeah…” which is obviously not appropriate! If this is like you too, then fear not you are not alone!

What you need to keep in mind is that this is a telephone interview. They will not be able to see you so whatever first impressions they get of you will be through what you say. It is essential that you speak clearly; no mumbling or waffling or saying “err” countless times in a sentence. Be succinct and answer the question they ask you, not the question you wish they had asked you instead!

Fortunately, I did not have a telephone interview for my current placement with GlaxoSmithKline, but I do know of other industrial placement students at other companies who have had one. The questions they were asked varied from simple human resources questions to more interview style questions based around “Give an example of such and such”. Make some brief notes about what you think they might ask you (get some ideas from the job advertisement) and keep that paper in front of you when you are on the phone. Be cautious though and don’t write down paragraphs as you don’t want it to come across as if you are reading off a script, you want it to sound spontaneous and realistic.

The main piece of advice I can give for this stage of the application process is to be confident. You may well not feel very confident at all but at least try to be and this will come across in your voice. The last thing you want is to sound hesitant and undecided. Don’t jump into answering a question straight away, feel free to take a couple of seconds to collect your thoughts and then say something sensible rather than something not really relevant.

Finally, the more obvious points to remember when you’re in a telephone interview; make sure you are in a quiet place away from distractions and please remember to have your phone charged! It will not help you if your phone decides to die on you when you’re half way through the interview!  

Good luck until next time and keep an eye out for my next post on the industrial placement face to face interviews.

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About maryam

Maryam graduated in the Summer of 2014 and is no longer blogging for this site. Maryam blogged about the final year of her degree in Medical Physiology after returning from an industrial placement year at GlaxoSmithKline.

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