This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
spacer gif
You are in: Learning English > Business > Work Skills
Learning English
spacer gif
The basic problem
Your calling them
Their calling you
In the age of mobile phones, everyone thinks they know how to use the phone. But not necessarily...
You will often have telephone contact with a company before an interview. Some companies will even assess these phone calls as part of the selection process.

To leave a positive impression, of someone who's capable and efficient.
    The basic problem  


Lots of research shows that the biggest impact in spoken-word communication is visual. Some researchers say it's as much as three-quarters of the total. Yet on the phone we don't have any of that. Our voice has to do all the work.

If we want people at the other end to form a good impression of us, we need to give more thought to business phone calls than we do when we're just chatting to our friends.

^^Back up

    Your calling them  
Blue line Blue line

There are two main possibilities.

  • The job advert asks you to ring the company for an application form.
  • Or, usually a little later in the process, you have to ring up and arrange a time for an interview.

Either of these cases can be entirely straightforward - just a matter of getting a small administrative task done. But depending on who you speak to, there could also be questions of a sort you wouldn't otherwise expect until you fill in the application form or go for an interview.

These could be either factual - "what's your educational background?" - or human - "what interested you particularly about this job?"

It makes sense to be prepared before you make the call, just as you would before an interview.

For more information on factual and human questions, see Work skills - Being interviewed.


Their calling you

The main difficulty here is not knowing who a call is from until you've picked up the phone. That means that each call ought to be treated as if it's a business call until you find out otherwise.

So, for example, don't let it ring for too long, and then answer either with the number or your name. Just ‘hello' might be OK for your friends, but business people expect more information when someone picks up the phone.

You also want to keep a pen and paper close to the phone. It's not very impressive if you have to say: "Can you hold on a moment while I just get something to write with?"


BBC copyright
Learning English | News English | Business English | Watch and Listen
Grammar and Vocabulary | Communicate | Quizzes | For teachers
Downloads | FAQ | Contact us