“What can I do to improve my telephone interviewing skills?”
Excellent question. Today, usually all initial interviews are conducted over the phone. The reasons include costs to time pressures to the sheer number of applicants applying for positions. Unfortunately, for you, the potential candidate, phone interviews are largely used for screening OUT the wrong candidate vs. finding the right fit.
So, you have applied for the job, gotten the phone call to set up a phone screen. Now, how do you clear this next hurdle?
Our suggestions are based on the assumptions that most people do not spend a great deal of time on the phone—like a recruiter does-- and therefore they are not comfortable interviewing without eye to eye contact. Also, most people are not trained to have honed listening skills and therefore need to employ simple techniques to help themselves in what can be a stressful experience. Here are our tips:
1. Stand up during the phone conversation to heighten your awareness level and prevent yourself from becoming too comfortable in your favorite chair. Walking around can also help as long as it doesn’t become your primary activity.
2. Have your resume handy and pen and paper to take notes. Writing down your interviewers key points can help you remember their primary objectives and will help you remember to touch on them with examples from your own experience.
3. Employ the communication techniques you commonly use in any face-to-face dialogue; restatement to clarify, the pause for emphasis, probes to invite the interviewer back- in (i.e. “have I answered your question or would you like to know more?”) and transitional phrases to create bridges.
When asked a specific question, answer with a specific answer and be prepared to elaborate with an example. Make sure you don’t ramble…remember you don’t have any body signals to let you know if you’ve lost your audience.
4. If you normally use hand gestures when you speak, use them while on the phone. Your goal is to sound as comfortable and self-assured as possible.
5. Remember you are also on a fact finding mission, so have questions prepared to assist yourself in this objective. Use questions that convey a willingness to work, an ability to analyze and connect. Don’t ask questions about hours, vacation, benefits and compensation. There will be a time and place for those questions, but the initial interview isn’t it.
6. Finally, relax take a deep breathe, smile (yes, it comes across on the phone) and be you. A positive impression is key to landing that face to face interview—where the real matches get made.