Quick Tips for a Phone Interview
In my personal experience with interviews, a clean, crisp appearance and a bit of background research never hurts to make a good first impression. However, on my first phone interview I was at a bit of a loss; my entire qualification was being judged on my voice! If the prospect of not meeting an employer in person makes you even more nervous than an actual interview, here are some quick tips for phone interview strategies.
Have a glass of water on hand. Often when we get nervous our throats dry up and this can make it harder to understand a voice over the phone. Pausing the interview to go grab a drink can be rude, especially over the phone where the employer can only be speculating as to what you are actually doing. This way you can take a sip if you feel your throat get dry, but no eating, that is rude!
Take a pre-game potty break! It helps you stay focused during the interview. If you know the exact time of the call, make sure to leave 10 minutes before the scheduled time open, so that you’ve already relieved yourself, set up with any notes you may have and are ready just in case your interviewer calls a bit early.
Be in a quiet place. Your employer hearing your siblings playing video games, the dog barking to be let outside, or your mother sniffling to daytime soaps is not an attractive quality for a phone interview. Let your family members know in advance that you have an interview, but also make sure you can close yourself in your bedroom or family office for privacy and a quiet atmosphere.
No distractions! Facebooking your friends about how well your interview is going is not appropriate. You wouldn’t whip out your phone at a personal interview to call or text your friends, so don’t surf the web either. If you want information on the business you are applying to, have this information ready before the interview. You will sound more composed and knowledgeable if you have a short list of notes or questions ready; (this can be applied to in-person interviews as well) you will seem more interested and commited to the job. If you are using a cell-phone, turn off the call-waiting function, the beep of another call is distracting and can make you lose your focus.
Speak Clearly. Even if your throat isn’t parched, it is easy to be so nervous that we rush through our responses or mumble, mixing our words together. Try to take a deep breath before answering a question, giving yourself time to plan what you want to say. Then take your time and enunciate each word, not shouting, but speaking at a normal volume. A slower, audible response to a question will be received better than someone who rushes through answers and loses a number of words in translation.
Don’t Panic. If you do bungle up a word, or the employer asks you to repeat something, don’t worry. Simply say “excuse me”, try to slow down and speak up, and repeat yourself. This is the same protocol for sneezing, coughing, or the hiccups (which happened to me because of nerves on my first phone interview.)
Business Appropriate. If you have a cell-phone as your “business” line, make sure your answering machine message doesn’t include you and your ‘boyz’ and that you aren’t going to ‘holla back’ at your employer. Your message should have at least your first name, although first and last are easier to identify, followed by “cannot come to the phone, please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as possible, thank you.” Hopefully you already have a phone time set up with the employer, but often they will say “I will call you with some available interview times, please call the office back with the slot you prefer.” If you are using a house’s landline, make sure that the line will be free during your allotted interview time.
Use the person’s title. Keep your address respectful, calling the interviewer Mr./Ms.__. Only refer to the employer by first name if they request it at the beginning of the interview.
Keep a resume copy on hand. Not only can it help to have some facts about the position you’re applying to, a copy of your resume can be a valuable asset. If they ask you about a specific experience or skill, you have a well-compiled short-list of your talents, past experience, and honors ready to go. A list of strengths and weaknesses (a very typical interview question) can’t hurt either. For a tip within a tip, if possible, tape these up on the wall in front of you for easy access, shuffling through papers can muffle your voice and distract the interviewer.
Smile. You can actually hear a smile in someone’s voice, if you seem cheerful (but not overly chipper, which can be fake to the employer) it gives the employer a more positive image of you over the phone. One way to combine a good self-image with clear speech is to take your interview in front of a mirror. Even eye connection with yourself can help you process your words smoother and be more clear and concise.