In the age of the coronavirus, mastering the skill of interviewing remotely is more important than ever. Face-to-face job interviews aren't a viable option in most circumstances. Instead, telephone and video interviews have become the norm.
Phone interviews can be especially tricky. A long-standing practice for recruiters screening candidates in the early part of the interview process, phone interviews, unlike in-person (and even video) interviews, don’t grant you the luxury of reading facial expressions or body language, which deprives you of a very important communication tool.
Instead, in phone interviews, you have to rely on your voice alone to make a good impression. This is especially tough when Americans just aren’t calling each other like they used to, opting to communicate over text and apps instead. As a result, your phone skills might be a little rusty.
While it's true that the coronavirus threat will eventually wane, most job seekers can't afford to wait to seek new employment — so it's critical to hone your telephone interview skills now. If you need more incentive, experts say that phone interviews will be an increasingly common part of the hiring equation.
To help you master this critical skill, here are 8 tips for making a great impression during your next phone interview:
1. Be clear on the details
Step one is paying attention to the details. Here are a few things you'll want to know before the interview begins:
- Who is making the call, and from what number? Is it the employer or are you expected to call a number at an agreed upon time? You can answer your phone more confidently or make the call with confidence if you have this information ahead of time.
- What time is the interview, and what time zone is your interviewer calling from? (This is easier to mess up than you’d think!)
- Who will you be speaking with, and what role do they perform at the company? (Pro tip: Researching your interviewer, in a non-creepy way, is a plus.)
- Should you call the interviewer back if the call drops, or will they be calling you back? If you’re the one calling, how can you reach them?
- How long is the interview expected to last? You’ll want to have extra time on either side of the call in case your interviewer is running late or the call runs over.
2. Preparation is key
You don't want to be caught off guard in a job interview, so adequate preparation is key. To begin, research the company that's interviewing you. Here’s how:
- Read the About Us page on the company’s website. This will give you more information about the company’s culture and mission.
- See if they’ve been mentioned in the news recently.
- Browse their social media pages to see what fans (and detractors) are saying about the company and its products or services.
- Prep for interview questions you might get asked, practicing your answers with friends and family if possible.
- Prep the questions you want to ask to learn more about the company and determine whether you’ll want to work there.
- Write down the most salient facts about the company and have those ready for your call.
3. Set a comfortable scene
First, make sure you're calling from a room with no background noise. Close the window and turn off the fan if you must. It should be easy for the interviewer to hear you.
Then, consider how you like to take your phone calls. To get in the right headspace, tweak your environment to your liking. If you prefer a relaxing atmosphere, set up a little workstation at your couch. If you communicate best when you’re active, find a place to pace. Do whatever you need to to make yourself comfortable.
After all, they can’t see you so do what makes you comfortable. However, make sure you never stray too far from a pen and paper. You should also have a glass of water nearby just in case your throat gets dry.
4. Refer to your notes
Once you’ve done the research on the company and established a comfortable workspace, write down your agenda. One of the benefits of a phone interview is your invisibility. The interviewer can’t tell if you’re looking down at your notes. Use that to its full benefit (without coming across as over-rehearsed or distracted).
Here are a few items you should prepare answers for before your call:
- Why you'd be great a fit for the company
- Two to three real-life examples that illustrate your skill set
- One to two key achievements throughout your career
- A list of questions for the interviewer
5. Talk slowly and intentionally
Unfortunately, you can’t read facial expressions or body language on a call, so your voice has to do the heavy lifting. Because you’re missing out on important social cues, the chance you'll accidentally interrupt the interviewer is much higher. By speaking slowly and allowing full pauses after thoughts, you reduce the likelihood of talking over one another.
While you want to speak slowly and clearly, you want your enthusiasm for the role to shine through, so smile. A smile changes the way your voice is projected.
Not convinced? Research shows that people can hear a smile over the phone. Employers want to feel like you want the job, and the best way to do that is by sounding happy and excited to be chatting with them. A smile, even over the phone, goes a long way towards expressing your interest.
7. Sell yourself
You’ve made a list of your skills and accomplishments before the call. Now it's time to use them. A phone interview is your time to tell an employer what you’ll bring to the table, not a time to be modest or shy.
Ultimately, don't go overboard — no one wants to work with someone who’s arrogant or sarcastic — but calibrating your confidence and enthusiasm meters correctly will help you stand out from other candidates.
8. Always have your resume on hand
Whether you're stuck on a question or trying to remember peak accomplishments, your resume is a great resource for jogging your memory or generating ideas. Have a copy nearby at all times, as well as a pen, so you can jot down notes in the margins and refer to important bullet points as the call progresses. Having your skills, work experience, education and career summary at your fingertips will give you peace of mind and allow you to put your best foot forward.