Phone interviews are different from in-person interviews. You may need to acquire a few new skills, as well as avoid common pitfalls.
Many job interviews these days are conducted over the phone. A phone interview may even be your first contact with a potential employer.
However, they are different from in-person interviews, and you may need to acquire a few new skills. Here’s how to ace your phone interview:
- Smile while you speak. It may feel silly, but smiling shows up in your voice.
- Stand up while you speak. It removes pressure from your diaphragm and gives your voice more resonance.
- Always be prepared. A prospective employer may call when you least expect it. You can ask to reschedule at a more convenient time, but showing that you are flexible and can think on your feet is a way to impress people. Keep your phone-interview room/area set up and ready to go at all times.
- Have a dedicated space. Your phone-interview room/area needs to be quiet. No dogs, kids, music or TV blaring in the background.
- Test your phone connection with a friend. Choose a handset you can hold to your ear comfortably. If you use a headset or speakerphone, make sure you are not unconsciously shouting.
- Look at yourself while you talk. Try setting up a mirror in your phone-interview room. It sounds crazy, but having a human face to talk to helps us to speak with more passion and conviction.
- Prepare for the call. If you know when the call is coming, get settled in your room and take a series of long, deep breaths. Say a few practice phrases, slowly and in a slightly deeper register than your normal voice.
- Tape your resume and notes on the wall. This way, you can consult them without having to look down.
- Have pen and paper handy. Also, have your calendar nearby in case your interviewer wants to schedule a follow-up.
- Remember that your interviewer can’t see you. When you pause to make a note, don’t just let the silence stretch out. Say, “One second, please, while I write that down.”
- Be respectful to everyone you talk to. If an operator or assistant connects you to the interviewer, be nice to that person. Word gets around.
- Ask for the sale. Close the interview by trying to set up an in-person meeting. It’s an old sales technique.
Now, what shouldn’t you do? Most of these should go without saying, but I’ll say them anyway:
- Don’t make any bodily noises other than well-modulated speech. That includes eating, drinking, chewing gum, spitting, smoking, sniffling and belching. If you have to sneeze, cough or blow your nose, hold the phone as far away as possible, do what you have to do, then briefly apologize and turn the conversation back to the interview. (Do not make a comment like, “Whoa, what a honkin’ sneeze!”)
- Don’t pepper your speech with “um” or “like.” For some reason, these tics are even more annoying on the phone than in real life. Do a practice interview with a friend or tape yourself to find out what you really sound like.
- Don’t put your interviewer on hold. You don’t need to take that incoming call, get the door or answer that text, or stop your interview for any reason, really.
- Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted by other people in the room. It’s best to be alone when you’re interviewing.
- Don’t talk too long. This is also true for in-person interviews, but on the phone you lack visual cues to tell you when your listener is zoning out. Aim to speak for no longer than two minutes at a time. (You can practice this using a timer.)
- Don’t interrupt. If you accidentally speak over your interviewer (this happens), quickly apologize and let him or her finish.
- Don’t forget that a phone interview is as formal as an in-person interview. This is a real danger, because phone calls just feel casual and you may be speaking from your car or home. But — beware! — you are being judged, and you need to sound professional. If it helps, try wearing the same clothes as you would for an in-person interview.
- Don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you note, just as you would after an in-person interview.
Good luck. Here’s hoping that your next interview, phone or otherwise, is The One.
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Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.