If job interviews are challenging, phone interviews are often doubly so. Many people find it especially hard to make a good first impression to someone they can’t see and it’s often hard to know what will be expected ahead of time.
Fortunately, telephone interviews don’t need to be all that hard, and you can even turn the limitations to your advantage.
Some of the preparatory steps you must make for a telephone interview are the same as for a face to face one – you should do your research on the company and industry, and ensure that you have your examples of experience all lined up. However in addition to all the usual research, it’s best to follow these few phone interview tips.
Firstly, use your landline if you have one, or if not, make sure you sit somewhere where you have a clear signal on your (fully charged) mobile. A bad connection wouldn’t be blamed on you exactly, but it could still give a negative impression and increases the risk of miscommunication. You should also shut out distractions and possible sources of interruption, so tell your housemates that you can’t be disturbed and feed the dog beforehand.
As you will not have the visual cues that we normally rely on in conversation, you may find it hard to judge how you are doing. Let’s say you answer a question put to you, and hear only silence from the other end of the line – what does this mean? Do they want you to say more? Is the interviewer just taking notes? Or was your answer really that bad?
You can get around this uncertainty by asking – “Was that what you were looking for?” or “Should I go on?” While you might not normally ask these questions when sitting across a table from someone, it could really help both you and the interviewer in ensuring every answer you give is just right.
You might think that the fact that your interviewer can’t see you should mean you can dress however you like. Though of course your employer won’t be able to see that you’re still in bed at two in the afternoon, it’s actually still a good idea to dress smartly as this has a beneficial psychological effect on yourself. Chances are you’ll be in a “working” mindset and you will sound more professional.
Finally, be sure to smile as you speak, even if you don’t much feel like it – again, this is a quality that can be heard in your voice and it really does make a difference. Feel free to have something in front of you like a picture that makes you happy – it sounds odd, but glancing over at it before answering could really help you get the effect you want.
With all the above in mind, there are certain advantages to phone interviews that you can exploit to make the most of them.
The phone interview should be much more convenient for everyone involved, as there is no travel involved. This would make it easier to, for instance, take an interview in a lunch break at your current job, and also means you won’t get lost or held up in traffic!
You can also have very extensive notes to hand, and refer to them throughout. These could be information on the company, your experience, the job description and general interview tips. You should definitely take advantage of the ability to have a surface covered in notes if it’s something that will help you. Just be sure that your notes are in brief, bullet point form rather than full sentences, as you’ll definitely sound stilted reading word-for-word from a script!
Finally, try to relax and not be too nervous. Even a failed interview is good practice, so you can be reassured that your next one will be even better.