Interviews over the phone have been in existence for a while now. An important step in the process of recruitment, they are a way for companies to zero in on suitable candidates before undertaking the final in-person interviews.
Hence, you need to prepare for them as seriously as you would with your resume and the final interview. The difficult part about a phone interview is clearly that you are not present at the venue in person. Important cues related to your dress, grooming, body language and personal etiquette are not available for you to project the right image. The only weapon you have is of vocal communication. But do not ignore the other elements of image management if you want to go all out in projecting the right image in a phone interview.
Dress Right – Groom Perfect
It is commonly accepted that being neatly groomed and carrying the right body posture has an impact on how you view yourself, which in turn impacts how you project yourself. So, whether you are giving the interview from your office cabin, home or elsewhere, make sure that you are dressed as if you are going for an in-person interview.
Sit erect and carry the right posture throughout the interview. Make sure that you begin the interview in a positive frame of mind. Be conscious of your gestures and facial expressions. Just because the interviewer cannot see you, does not mean that your emotions aren’t conveyed. Many times, your expressions seep into your voice and your responses. Your tone, pitch and volume easily carry your emotions and expressions. So, remain neutral in your gestures and posture. Smile a lot. Your voice does carry your smile through. Have a glass of water handy to prevent dry mouth.
Manage your Voice
If it is to be your first phone interview, have a friend take a mock interview. Record both sides of the conversation – this is possible with cell phones. At the least, record your side of the call and play it back. You would be surprised to hear that you sound a lot different from how you think you do. You might sound dull, or high-pitched or slow or too fast. Make the necessary corrections. Make sure there is enough variation and rhythm to your voice. Make good use of emphasis. Most importantly, your voice must be energetic to convey your sense of purpose. Many times we make out half of what we hear through the lip movement. Enunciate your words well since the interviewer does not have access to this.
Don’t for a moment think that you can take the call from your desk or step out to the restaurant around the corner for a half hour to take the call. It could very well be noisy and hence very distracting. While you can book an office cabin, a colleague may step in and interrupt the interview. Many times, candidates take the call outside their office, but traffic and other noises are intrusive and distracting to you and the interviewer. You may have to keep standing which is not the best of positions in which to give an interview.
If you are absolutely sure that no one will intrude, take it in an office cabin. Book it in advance. If you are very sure that the restaurant would be empty at the time of the interview, go for it. If neither of these holds good, make sure you are at home or at a friend or relative’s place close to your office if possible.
Put your phone on speaker. Tying your hand down to the receiver can put unnecessary pressure on you in longer interviews. Secondly, keeping the receiver to your ear for half hour or more increases the heat, particularly with cell phones, making it very uncomfortable. Hence, our advice is to have the phone on speaker but make sure there is no surrounding noise. Even ear phones or blue tooth devices will do the job of keeping your hands free and keep the heat away.
If possible, use a landline. A cell phone may carry static that interrupts the interview. If you are using a cell phone, make sure it is fully charged.
Data at Hand
The single largest advantage of phone interviews is that you can have your data at hand. You won’t have the time to dredge them up from your computer. So carry short notes that are quick to read. Have your resume in front of you. Keep important documents handy even though you have prepared well for the interview. Make sure that your key board is noiseless if you have to look up a document. When you type, the noise can easily carry to the other end, especially when you are on a speaker phone.
Cut Personal Distractions
Keep your other phones switched off. If there is a landline, take the receiver off the hook or switch it off. Don’t let your eye stray to your mail box. A stray mail may catch your attention and interrupt your thought process. You may even miss an important part of the question or miss a nuance.
If there are multiple interviewers, listen carefully and take note of their names. Match the name with the voice. Understand their departments, HR, marketing and such, so that you can gauge the questions and respond accordingly.
Listen carefully so that you understand the tone and nuance in the interviewer’s question. Similar to in-person interviews, phone interviews too require your understanding of the intent behind each question.
Devil in the Detail
The devil is in the detail. Answer to project your strengths, not just to answer the obvious question. That is what the interviewer expects. For example, how you achieved a certain milestone says far more than a mere confirmation that you have achieved one. It allows the interviewer to see your technical, operational, people skills at work. But make sure that your answers are not too elaborate. This is a phone interview and the answers should be briefer than in an in-person interview.
Confirm with the interviewer whether you have answered the question put to you. Some ways of asking this would be, “Does that answer your question?” or “Have I understood your question right?” If you are unsure of a question, repeat the question and ask them if you have got it right.
Be on Time
Make sure you are in the place of your choice, ready to take the call at least 10 minutes before the interview time. Inform everyone that you are unavailable during this period. A second call coming through when you are giving the interview can be a source of distraction. You cannot prevent all, but certainly some. Allocate an hour for the interview. Don’t assume it will be short.
Send a thank you note a day after the interview to show your interest in the position. If you don’t get their response within the indicated time period, it is fine to follow-up with a phone call.
In short, give it as much importance as an in-person interview, take advantage of the fact that the interviewers cannot see you accessing data and give a great phone interview.