In this crazy world of global economies and national searches, the phone interview is becoming a preferred method for starting the candidate-selection process. After all, if you can call someone up and interview that person for the cost of a long-distance phone conversation, you’ve saved considerable time and expense over flying someone in for a face-to-face meeting. They are often used even for local candidates as early step in the hiring process.
So, enter the Telephone Interview. An arranged time for a phone call can allow a company to screen you at a deeper level as a candidate (your resume probably got you the phone appointment) to see if they really want to make eye contact with you. If you’re like me, you may prefer speaking face to face, but you should probably hone your phone skills, since you’ll likely have a phone interview sometime soon.
With this in mind, here are some suggestions for getting your message across through the wires:
- If the call comes unexpectedly and you are not prepared as I suggest below, ask to reschedule. It’s not unreasonable to let your potential employer know that you don’t have the time to talk at this time and wish to make arrangements at a later date.
- Use a land line or quality cell phone if you can. Don’t trust bargain cell phones. Also, use the handset, not the speakerphone; the technology just isn’t there yet (I’ve found it sounds like you’re calling from the Holland Tunnel!). If you don’t have a quality wireless phone where you’ll receive the call, use a standard phone. Sound quality can be a significant problem if your equipment isn’t up to the task.
- Make arrangements for your phone line to be free, whether you are calling or being called. If you think other people might try to reach you, advise them in advance that you won’t be available and that you need the phone line to remain open. If you get a call while in conversation, let your voice mail handle it.
- Gather all of the information you can on the company in advance. Have a copy of your resume and work background, key information you want to share, etc., spread out before you. This is an “open book test,” so be prepared. There is NO REASON not you have all of your “interview ammunition” in front of you for the call!
- Make sure your interview location is quiet when the conversation takes place. If the call comes when others are around, be sure to make plans for some silence. Interviewing over the cacophony of a barking dog or a blaring rerun of “Sponge Bob Squarepants” is not likely to impress a potential employer.
- Review what you know of the position and company and prepare short “experience stories” to demonstrate how you fit the company’s needs. Since you know when the interview is going to take place and have the ability to keep your critical information within reach, there’s no reason not to take full advantage of the situation.
- Believe it or not, I recommend DRESSING UP for the phone interview. What you wear is often reflected in your voice. If you’re dressed professionally you’ll sound much better than if you’re in a bathrobe and bunny slippers. (Go ahead and laugh, but it’s true!)
- Sit in a chair that requires you to maintain good posture. Once again, little steps like this will improve your delivery. Voices can slouch just like bodies do. Some people find interviewing while standing up works as well.
- Use your voice to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm. Speak clearly with good diction, varying your voice to make points. Consider keeping a glass of water nearby, perhaps some lozenges, etc., just in case you need them.
- You may find that interviewing in front of a mirror is useful, providing some visual cues and feedback which you cannot get from the other end of the phone line. This technique will also give you some feedback on your posture, energy level and related variables.
- Have all of the questions you want the company to answer ready in advance. Be aware that the phone interview is likely to happen early in the hiring process, so bringing up issues like salary and benefits is probably not a good idea.
- Near the end of the interview, consider asking (in your own words), “As I learn more about this position in relation to my skills and experience, I frankly see an excellent fit and am quite excited about the opportunity to join your company. Are there any areas of concern regarding my candidacy that we should discuss in greater detail?” A strong question like this near the end of the interview may help you clarify any areas where the company may be unsure of you as a candidate. (And, it’s an excellent question, even if they don’t voice any concerns.)
- Finally, never close the interview without the final question: “What’s the next step in the process?” or “When can I anticipate hearing from you?” Be sure that you have accurate information on the name, title and address of the individual(s) you are speaking with so that you can send thank-you correspondence.
Phone Interviews: Be all you can be when that call comes in!