Monday, June 22, 2009

How to Talk Your Way Through a Phone Interview

Once reserved for sales interviews or simply as a precursor to a face to face, the phone interview has seen a sharp rise in popularity. Driven by the economic climate that has already forced companies to layoff thousands companies are seeking more ways to cut costs. These companies have found savings (reducing hiring manger travel, or candidate travel expenses) by conducting more phone interviews.

This poses serious challenges, in fact one UCLA study put that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. So regardless of the reason you must be as prepared for the phone interview as you would be for a face-to-face (if not more prepared) Here are a few hints and tips to get you from phone to face:

Preparation- Studying and treat the phone interview like a face to face, even use a digital voice recorder to playback your answers to interview questions and listen for filler words and voice inflection, practice answering questions with mini-stories concise specific accounts, even jot down notes of what you want to say- but remember don’t come across robotic). The better prepared you are the more confident you’ll be in your answers.

Dress the part- Just because you can do a phone interview in your favorite sweats doesn’t mean you should. I’ll reiterate- treat this like a face to face. That means get up early shower and dress the part (remember how it felt to put on the game uniform, when you put that on it was all business same rules apply here- it’s game time). Taking the extra step to put on suit can give you the mental edge you need to come across sharp and prepared.
Environment-. Use a landline if possible (if not pick a location with a great signal. Can you hear me? Can you hear me now is not a great way to start an interview). Get in a quite place & remove distractions. Close the door, turn the TV off, turn off iTunes, pull down the blinds, crate the dog, give the cat catnip, give the baby NyQuil then put a mirror in front of you & smile at it.

Essentials- Have your resume out in front of you. This will help you not sound like you paid someone to write your resume. Seriously you need to quickly access any employment dates or awards. Have a pen back up pen and notepad. You’ll want to write down the questions asked and take notes on the interviewer. This will help your research if you make it to the next step. Have your questions and notes on your stories/answers already wrote down on a separate sheet of paper. Finally have a glass of water ready to go.

Emotion- Smile through the phone, don’t think because they can’t see you they can’t hear your non-verbal cues (I know that is a bit of an oxymoron) but go ahead pace around the room, use hand motions be animated let your voice paint the picture for them.

Brevity- Don’t drone on simply because you can’t see them and you feel you need to be adding more to the interview- remember the short mini-stories and concise answers.

Close the deal- Don’t forget to ask for the next step- Here’s how “Do you have any hesitations with moving me forward in the interview process?” If they answer no you follow up with “Great what is the next step and what to we need to do to get there? (Pause to listen, if it’s a face-to-face go ahead and ask to get it on the schedule). If they answer yes, all is not lost; this gives you the chance to confront their objections head on. Simply ask them “What are your hesitations”? (Pause, listen and answer).

Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts:

The Do’s
• Treat this like a face to face, prepare and dress the part.

• Remove any ring-back tones you have, also just in case you miss the call use a professional sounding voicemail.

• Address any strong accents, speech impediments or anything else that could make it difficult for the interviewer to understand you. Best to get it on the table in the beginning than to pretend it doesn’t exists (trust me the recruiter will appreciate it if you bring it up).

• Create a calm, quiet environment. Remove all distractions.

• Have a glass of water ready to go in case you find yourself getting tongue-tied.

• Have a pen; back up pen and notepad ready

• Keep a mirror on your desk and remember, SMILE through the phone.

• Keep your answers brief- have your concise stories rehearsed and do not over talk your answers!

• Ask to schedule another time if a recruiter calls you unexpectedly

• Ask for the next step- Close the deal!

• Thank the interviewer for their time and be sure to send a follow up email or letter.

The Don’ts
• Remember not to interrupt the interviewer.

• Don’t rush through your answers (brevity is fine but talking like the micro machine man is not), breath deep remain calm and take your time.

• Don’t chew gum, smoke, dip or put anything else into your mouth during the interview. This can lead to distractions and make it difficult for the interviewer to understand you.

• Don’t simply take any interview time the recruiter offers, make sure the time is conducive to your schedule and you have the ability to be in a quiet organized location.

• Don’t make it difficult for your interviewer to understand you, speak clearly and slowly.
Follow these tips and you may be on your way to the face-to-face interview!

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