Interviews are intense and an artificial way of determining whether you will be a good fit for the organisation.
Phone interviews are often the first step in the process and require just as much preparation as face-to-face interviews. In fact, I would say even more preparation is needed for a phone interview.
Let me explain. After speaking to a close friend overseas, I reflected on how the conversation had flowed. As we hadn’t been in touch for a while, I noticed that it was hard to predict when to re-enter the conversation, not cut her off and understand what she meant because we were not face-to-face. Now, that was a phone conversation with a close friend…someone I know well, a close relationship with and certainly spoken to on the phone lots before. Imagine speaking to someone you don’t know, have never communicated with and doing it over the phone while trying to impress them?
Phone interviews can be quite intimidating. So much is lost when we move away from direct and face-to-face person communication. We may misinterpret things, speak at the wrong time or not understand tone. Phone interviews are often used by recruiters in the initial stages of the recruitment process as a method to find the best candidates prior to face-to-face interviews.
It allows an employer to screen candidates on their experience, qualifications, and remuneration expectations.
The same rules apply to phone interviews as face-to-face ones, it’s important to prepare for it as if you are meeting in person. Make sure you have researched the organisation and interviewer (where possible). Your goal is to secure a face-to-face interview.
Preparation is key! Prepare an ice-breaker, prepare for the expected questions and prepare to ask questions about the role and organisation. Try to obtain the job description and understand how your skills match.
Practice a mock interview over the phone with a friend.
Phone interviews may be scheduled or surprise calls. Make sure you answer your phone professionally and that you have an appropriate voicemail in case you are not available. When you receive a call and it is about the role you have applied for, ensure you can speak freely and without interruption. Don’t feel uncomfortable to re-schedule a time when you have ideal conditions. Often a call will come through when you are traveling or in a noisy environment. We all feel pressed to continue the call so we don’t lose out – this is a sure way to interview failure.
It is crucial to give your 100% attention, including having no food, drink or chewing gum in your mouth. If you have call waiting, disable it for the call duration. Prepare the people in your home so that they do not pick up the phone or interrupt the call. Choose a location where a mobile reception is uninterrupted or use a landline. Create a relaxed environment for yourself that excludes kids and pets and have a glass of water handy. Have a copy of your resume printed and highlight the areas you want to emphasize. Have some paper and a pen ready so you can take notes.
The great part of phone interviews is that you can have a, “cheat sheet” in front of you. Set aside at least 30 minutes.
To make a connection with the interviewer, step one is to listen – take notes while you try to find things that you have in common with the role as it’s discussed (based on experience). This will allow you to bond with them. When you speak, try to drink some water first, to prevent clearing your throat. When appropriate, smile as you speak.
A question that undoubtedly comes up is remuneration and what you expect. Be prepared for this. The first thing you can do is say that you are more interested in the role than the remuneration package. You can also mention since the organisation pays market rates, you would be keen to hear what they are offering. The best ammunition is research. If you are feeling pushed or want to have a quote or a figure in mind, have a look on a few job boards for similar roles/job titles and you can say you have researched what the market is paying.
When nerves get the better of us we tend to increase the speed of our speech. Try to speak more slowly than you would in person and vary your tone to reflect emotion. Sitting up straight or standing can improve your voice clarity.
Don’t be shy to clarify what is being asked as this will ensure that you answer appropriately.
Have some questions prepared with the goal of learning about the organisation and getting to the next stage. At the end of the call, it is a good idea to restate why you would like to join the organisation and if possible to ask for a face-to-face interview. Remember to leave an impression by sending a thank you message straight after.
Next time you speak to a friend on the phone, notice what you listen for and how you communicate so you can apply these techniques when phone interviewed. All the best with getting to the next stage.
Remember, you can read Part I here and don’t forget preparation and practice will put you in a good position to face your next interview. And remember to enjoy the game.
Karen Lewitton is a founding member of the FlexCoach panel of career and executive coaches. Having worked in Cape Town, San Francisco, London and Sydney in professional services, investment banking, asset management, recruitment (14 years in Australia) and coaching, Karen has a diverse background and good understanding of different cultures.
Karen enjoys helping people discover their goals and providing the tools to assist realisation.
FlexCareers offers a free 30-min chemistry session with our coaches. You can connect with Karen here