The Dreaded Telephone Interview – try these three things

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So all that networking has finally paid off, and you’ve landed the interview! But, what, it’s a telephone interview? Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it, but don’t underestimate the effort required to prepare – more effort actually, and more attention to detail than if you were interviewing face/face.

Many companies use telephone interviews today for initial screening – that first round of the interview process. As the search for talent becomes more global in scale, companies are investing less and less in travel expenses to bring candidates onsite. I remember my very first interview as a new MBA graduate . . . Royal Bank flew me to their Montreal Head Office for an interview. Wow, was I impressed! That is a rare occurrence today. Telephone interviews have quickly become the norm, and by far, most efficient way to screen large pools of candidates and to create the “short list”, and presumably the “in-person” list.

Clearly, you will prepare for your telephone interview as you would for an in-person interview. For example, you will have a current resume with you and be prepared to speak to your skills and experience, you’ll have researched the company and the position, and you may even know a little bit about the interviewer through the networking you’ve been doing. You will know your Brand and be able to tell your Story – with confidence!

The one barrier, if we can call it that, which you will face in your telephone interview is lack of any visual cues. You will not be able to see the person, and they will not be able to see you. You have only voices to rely on, no body language, so you need to leverage your voice to the greatest extent possible. Practise these three strategies for your next telephone interview:

  1. Put a smile in your voice. You’ve heard those people on the phone where you just know they are smiling as they are speaking. They exude enthusiasm and a positive energy. They are immediately like-able and you want to meet them.
  2. Speak slowly and don’t mumble. When we are nervous the pace at which we speak naturally speeds up. Slow down, pause. Chances are the interviewer is taking notes, so take your time, and don’t rush your responses. You do not want the interviewer to ask you to repeat yourself.
  3. Keep it brief. While it goes without saying that you should always answer the question directly, it is even more critically important when on the phone. Because there are no visual cues and you cannot read the body language, it is hard to know when to stop talking. Be concise and don’t ramble. You want to keep the interviewer’s attention.

Since there are likely many other individuals getting screened over the phone, the slightest slip can keep you from making the short list. Prepare diligently before the meeting: script your responses, rehearse, and record yourself, then play it back so you know what you sound like. When you are prepared, you’ll be confident, and that confidence will come through in your voice!

For some tips on how to have a great conversation, go to my blog The Art of Conversation.