Quick Tips for a Phone Interview

 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.


2 thoughts on “10 Quick Tips for a Phone Interview”

  1. To add one more point:

    What if you are doing a web cam conference? This is something that is not taught because it is usually too hard to teach. When speaking with someone via a web cam from half way around the world, pretend that the web cam is that person in real life. When you are asked questions, talk into the web cam as if you were sitting across the table from this individual.

    Ken Sundheim
    Executive Sales Recruiters and Marketing Staffing

  2. Golden Rule of Phone Interviewing – Make Sure Your Ring-tone does not sound like a rap or heavy metal concert

    Once we’re passed that, here are some additional tips:

    1. You have about 5 seconds to make a good impression. Sound enthusiastic about the phone call. If you come across as mundane, it shows right away and kills the tone of the conversation going forward. Make sure that you are not out partying the night before. Despite it being a phone call, you need more energy than you would think.

    2. Keep a pen and paper handy. Scribble down notes that the interviewer is giving you about the company. Phone interviews are like take-home tests, you can use everything to your advantage. Jot down each question you are being asked, therefore you will not go off topic during the question and answer session. This will allow you to always go back to the main question if you feel you are rambling.

    3. Find a quiet space. Put pooch in the other room. It looks very bad when there is a dog barking in the background during an interview session. We have an employee bring in her dog every now and then. Luckily, I know our clients, but if we had a meeting with a new prospect, Max would not be in the lineup that day.

    4. Be in front of a computer; don’t be in your career. Make sure that you have the free time before committing. This is not only going to put you behind the pack, it is unfair to do the person who is interviewing you.

    4. Listen and don’t interrupt. Nobody likes to be spoken over, especially if they are the ones interviewing you.

    5. Gather your thoughts before answering any questions. It is best to take a deep breath. If you don’t know they answer, tell them that.

    6. Close the deal. Ask the interview, in a confident tone, if they would like to bring you in. The majority of the time, the interviewer is going to say that he or she has to speak with someone or has more interviews. Don’t let this discourage you, it looks great and alludes to the fact that you have both guts and ambition.

    Ken Sundheim
    KAS Executive Sales Recruitment and Marketing Employment Agency
    ken.sundheim@kasplacement.com – fastest response

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