By: Jill Reynolds, Quantix President and CEO
With video technology and Skype, the phone interview has replaced the face-to-face interview for at least a portion of the interview progression, if not the entire interview process. Without the opportunity to make eye contact and a visible first impression, how do you stand out from all the other voices?
Ideally, the phone interview will happen at a scheduled time and with most conducive environment for a phone call, but that isn’t always the case. Often the call will come unexpectedly from HR or directly from your potential future boss. While you can’t control your surroundings, you can get a handle on your preparedness for the interview. You should practice selling yourself. Be prepared to discuss your skills, value and experience, and literally rehearse your summary out loud. Your thoughts may seem orderly and concise, but that doesn’t mean the words will flow smoothly off your tongue.
Laura DeCarlo, founder of Career Directors International, has the following tips for phone interviews:
1. Know whether you can take the call when it comes.
Are you driving the kids to school or dripping outside the shower? If so, these are times when you might want to express your desire to pursue the interview but ask if you could schedule a later time. Of course, you need to feel the interviewer out; if he or she hesitates to schedule, you might want to plunge forward and do the best you can, considering you might not be getting another opportunity to present yourself.
2. Keep files for each organization at your fingertips.
Having easy access to the company and job information will allow you to confidently respond to questions without fumbling regarding which job you are talking about. Also, make sure to have a copy of your own resume in front of you for reference.
3. Learn how to answer interview questions now vs. later.
Start practicing common interview questions now so that you are ready when the unplanned telephone interview occurs. You want to be able to paint visual pictures with your words by telling stories that demonstrate results. Brief ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses will not move a telephone interview forward but will end it quickly. But answers that express the who, what, when, where, how and why have punch because they make you stand out. Know that the more you prepare now, the less you will ramble and leave out when the interview arrives.
4. Practice smiling while on the phone.
You will find that you sound more upbeat and engaged when you do this which makes for a positive interview.
5. Focus on language plus motivation equals outcome (L+M=O).
Again, you can only go on the power of your voice in a telephone call. While you want to try to take cues from the interview (does he speak slowly and softly or fast and loud?) you also need to modulate your own tone and word choice to make a positive impression. Remember, the words you use (language) and the motivation you put forward (tone, modulation, enthusiasm) will determine your outcome. Speak clearly, stay upbeat, and use positive language.
6. Avoid selfish questions during the interview.
Now is not the time to ask about benefits or salary. Initial interviews, until you have an offer, are about selling yourself to the employer until you are the key applicant they want to hire. You do not have any power until that time and will just show that your emphasis is not on being a good fit but just on what is in it for you.
7. Don’t hang up without asking for the next step.
The interviewer is bringing the call to an end but there has been no talk of a next step. Speak up – express your enthusiasm for moving forward and ask about the next step. Find out if you can follow up with the employer and ask for contact information if you have yet to receive it.
8. Say thank you, in writing.
Sure, it was a telephone interview but that is no reason for not taking the time to exercise simple but powerful courtesies. Write a thank you letter and mail it, unless your main communication has been through email with the interviewer. Don’t just say thank you but make a point of reiterating strengths and value for the position.
It’s not “just a phone interview,” it is “the” interview.