How Not to Blow a Phone Interview...Part One
I’ll confess to a love/hate relationship with phone screens. As a recruiter, I want to push the interview process along quickly and get to an offer stage (or not) quickly. I typically try to put people together face to face as soon as there’s mutual interest.
As a candidate, I enjoy connecting with new people and believe that comes across when I meet them, so I’m more compelling in person. Experts say nearly 90% of human communication is nonverbal, so the phone isn’t the best showcase for your charisma, confidence and body language to shine. It’s tougher as a candidate to read the cues from the interviewer over the phone than in a face-to-face meeting, so making adjustments along the way is trickier.
Also, odds are good that someone will be on a cell phone. This can be fraught with issues including dropped calls, bad signal strength, poor network quality (which makes you sound as if you’re slurring, or even drunk!), background noise, or the dreaded delay. On the other hand, as a busy candidate, I’ve found that a phone interview is a great use of my time and an easy way to determine quickly if an opportunity is right for me. As a recruiter, I encourage a hiring manager to conduct a phone interview if they’re on the fence about someone, to get a quick gauge of their suitability for the role.
However, phone interviews are here to stay. Companies have distributed work teams. Telecommuting is growing so team members may not even be on site to conduct an interview. Also, it can be a good use of both the candidate’s and the employer’s time. There’s no need to fight traffic, park and spend an hour getting your hair perfect, and the hiring manager doesn’t have to clean up their office! For out-of-towners, both parties benefit from a quick conversation to ensure there’s a baseline fit, before investing in travel time and expenses.
So, how can you, the candidate, turn the phone interview into a clear advantage for yourself? How can you minimize the inherent problems associated with this forum and stand out? Here are a few things that can make a BIG difference and ensure you don’t blow it! I’ll share 8 tips, broken into 3 posts so you can quickly read and digest each one without getting overwhelmed.
- Be a Landlubber! Mobile devices are awesome, but unpredictable. It’s totally old school, but if you have a landline, it’s just better. Disable call waiting. If you must use a cell, be sure you pick a quiet place to conduct the call and check your signal strength, so there will be no surprises. Stay away from using a Bluetooth, as that can compromise call quality too.
- No Pajamas! Comfort is good. I’m not suggesting that you put on your best suit for a phone interview, but if you’re overly casual in your posture, attire, or environment, your voice will reflect it. Sit up straight at a desk or table with your feet on the floor, and have on business casual/work clothes. You’ll feel professional and it will come through in your voice. You can even stand up and walk around the room a bit and use hand gestures, if you typically would in live conversation. You’ll sound more animated and probably more interested. If you’re a natural skeptic (like me!), try this experiment. Put on comfy pants, lay down on the couch with your feet up, and record yourself on your cell answering this question, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Now, wear standard business attire and sit up at a table or desk with your feet in front of you. Record yourself again answering the same question. Finally, stand up, stretch, shake your arms and legs out a bit, have some water and record the same thing again. Listen to all three recordings back to back. Which one gives the listener the best version of you?
- Power Down! Turn off your computer, radio, TV, etc…and unless you’re on your cell phone, turn that off too. You don’t need any distractions. You want to focus on the call and nothing else. This is not the time for your potential boss to hear your new ringtone chiming in as background noise. Don’t IM, check email, tweet, or read texts – it can wait. The phone interview typically won’t last long, and you should afford the interviewer the same courtesies you would in a face-to-face meeting.