As everyone knows, it’s a buyer’s market in hiring right now. Human Resources staff have so many applicants for every job that they are finding new ways to reduce the pool of those under consideration. One of their techniques – not really new but increasingly being used – is the telephone interview.
Not a surprising choice, the telephone interview offers an inexpensive way for hirers to get beyond the paper file and meet candidates live while learning about their extemporaneous thinking and communication skills.
Telephone interviews are different from face-to-face interviews live and via internet-based apps like Skype. Phone interviews require a special kind of preparation and a special kind of attention. While such interviews have many disadvantages like not being able to see the facial expressions and body language of the interviewer, they have some advantages like permitting you to have notes to refer to.
Following are some tips to help you prepare for a telephone interview:
- Dress the way you would for an in-person interview. Even on the phone, we broadcast a different vibe when we are wearing sweats rather than business clothes.
- Give the interview your full attention. Have your computer and other mobile devices turned off. Clean up the area where you will have notes. Standing up will help you stay focused and will increase the energy you project.
- Smile and gesture as if there was another person in the room. Your voice will sound friendlier and more energetic. The biggest failure of people interviewed on the phone according to studies of hirers is sounding bored or unenergetic.
- Be conscious of enunciating your words clearly. Hold the phone; do not put it on speaker mode which makes your voice sound tinny and garbled. Allow pauses – they will give your interviewer time to process what you have said and will help you avoid verbal graffiti like “um.”
- Have an “elevator speech” ready that includes the main points you want the interviewer to know about you. At an appropriate time, you can interject all or part of it. As with in-person interviews, you may ask, “Would it help if I told you a bit about myself?” at the beginning or when there is a lull.
- As with in-person interviews have questions for the interviewer. You want to show an interest in the interviewer, the company, and the job.
- Remember to use examples, stories, and details to flesh out your answers. They give credibility to your assertions of skills – “I definitely used my attention to detail in my internship when my supervisor needed me to . . . .” And they make you more interesting.
- Be as prepared for a telephone interview as you would be for an in-person interview. Know everything you can about the position, the company, and, if possible, the interviewer. A comment like “I saw on your LinkedIn profile that you are in an MBA program at the University of Chicago. The Booth School program has a great reputation,” will sound like interest rather than stalking!
- Near the end of the interview mention that you are looking forward to meeting the interviewer. This action will show your interest and friendliness and will imply a sense of confidence that you will be invited to the next stage.
- Try to be natural; be yourself. Of course, this advice is easier given than put into practice when you are anxious. But it is even more critical when you cannot be seen. It might be helpful to have a photograph of a friend or family member that you can look at while you answer.
Most of all, be aware that you must never assume that you are hidden from the interviewers. Act as if they are there with you. Our voices and energy levels convey much more than we think, and an experienced interviewer is more intuitive and astute at reading those things than you might think.