Telephone interviews are still very common when it is not easy or practical for a face to face interview for some reason. They are very much the same as having a face to face interview but there are subtle differences that you need to be aware of to make a good impression.
Some of these differences can work to your advantage if you know how to use them and can help compensate for the lack of visual cues when the interviewer is not sitting opposite.
Firstly, ensure you treat a telephone interview exactly as if it were a face to face interview – be just as prepared and professional – don’t fall into the trap of being too casual.
Make sure you are ready in advance of the call, so in a quiet place with sufficient privacy so you are not disturbed – nothing looks worse than an interruption from a ringing phone, a person walking in chatting to you, or noise in the background from music, TV or your kids…
Make some notes in advance of the call – these might be questions you have prepared, a list of specific skills and achievements you want to get across to the interviewer or just some background information on the company you can quote to show you have done your homework. It can be helpful to have some bullet points to remind you of a situation you need to explain and so on. You have the opportunity to use notes far more in a phone interview so make sure to use these to your advantage by being organised.
Have a copy of your CV to hand, a pad and pen, together with your notes – you might even have your PC available with the interviewer’s company website up to jog your memory (but be careful you are not distracted by this).
Have a glass of water ready – you may need it with lots of talking expected – but avoid ice in the glass to avoid distraction of the clinking.
A major difference between a telephone and face to face interview is the loss of certain senses – most notably, sight. This generally plays an enormous part in the tone of a meeting, particularly in the initial stages, from appearance to body language and other visual cues.
The importance of a self-confident and enthusiastic voice therefore cannot be understated and is vital to success in the telephone interview. Without the visual influence, the emphasis on sound is very much amplified so needs much care and thought.
Smiling whilst talking can be very powerful and definitely improves your presentation. This makes logical sense but is backed up by science as apparently the tone of your voice changes when you smile.
Speak naturally, but be aware of the necessity to speak a little slower and slightly pause before you speak, to ensure the other person has finished and you are not talking over them.
Take care to enunciate your words and speak directly into the receiver. Rapid speech is magnified on the phone, and most of us speak more rapidly when a little nervous, so make sure you are not babbling on.
Try to avoid using slang, and minimise the ‘ums’, ‘ahs’, ‘like’s and ‘you know’s that pervade everyday speech.
Think about your posture as this can affect the sound of your voice – some suggest standing for a phone interview, but if this is not you make sure you sit comfortably in an upright position without slouching.
Give clear, concise and relevant answers to questions – try not to waffle and never interrupt.
Don’t be afraid of silences – this is natural, but if you feel it is becoming a little awkward then maybe it would be is a good time to ask one of your prepared questions.
It should go without saying, but don’t eat or chew gum, avoid habits like clicking a pen, and staring out of the window – you need to be fully focused for the duration of the call.
As with all things, you improve with practice, so take time to practice a phone interview with a friend or family member that will give you some constructive criticism – it seems a bit corny but it can be a valuable exercise to improve your technique and make a good impression.
After the call evaluate your performance – jot down a few notes straight afterwards with your impressions and anything you found tricky (you can research/practice this before your next interview).
Achieving a positive outcome from any telephone interview can be summed up in a few words – preparation, research, focus, and positivity. Put these simple steps in place to increase the chances of success at your next phone interview.