Master the Phone Interview
You’ve got your boom-box cranked up while you’re trying to do a little house cleaning, and your kids are screaming in the background because they can’t go swimming. The phone rings, and you answer it with a voice that makes it clear that the caller is interrupting your very busy day. The person on the other end of the phone says, “Is this Jane?”
What do you do when you have a day like this and the caller is a potential employer? You tell them to hold for a moment while you toss the boom-box into the pool and lock your children in the closet. I’m only kidding!
Since you are out in the market looking for a job, assume that all your calls are from a potential employer. Answer the phone in a professional way: “Hello, this is Jane.” It is perfectly acceptable to ask the person to “please hold” while you turn off the music, redirect your children, and stop any other distractions. When you resume the call, apologize for keeping him or her on hold.
Sometimes, though, you know that you will not be able to devote full attention to this important call. In that case, tell the employer that you were just walking out the door, that you are available after (state a time), and ask when would it be convenient for you to return the call. The employer understands that it was risky to make an unannounced call, and will appreciate it that you want to schedule it for a time that will be convenient for both of you.
During a phone interview, there should be absolutely no background noise, not even a low-volume radio or TV. Any background noise distracts the caller from what you are saying.
Make an Employment Folder to keep by the phone at all times, along with paper and at least two pens that write. The folder should contain your resume and, if you responded to any printed employment ads, include a copy of each ad. (It’s good to keep them in alphabetical order for quick access.) When you can quickly refer to this necessary information, you will appear organized and efficient. Of course this is if you are home when you get the call. What if the call comes on your cell phone?
When you are in the job market, do not return a call to an unrecognized number. Sometimes we miss a call and the caller did not leave a message. Some people look at the caller ID, return the call to an unrecognized number, and open the conversation with, “Who are you?” This looks bad and is rude, so don’t do it. If it was an employer, he will try again.
What if another call comes in while I’m on a phone interview? LET IT GO TO VOICEMAIL!
How do I handle myself on a telephone interview? We tend to get nervous just like in a live interview. Just relax and be yourself. Have your resume in front of you (remember that folder?) and let the employer lead the call.
When a question is asked of you, pause, repeat the question aloud, then answer. Finish by repeating a version of the question. For example, if an employer asks what my strengths are, I would answer like this: “What are my strengths?” Pause.... “My strengths are blah-blah-blah” and give an example. Finish your answer by saying, “So I consider blah-blah-blah to be one of my strengths.”
At the end of the interview, when you are asked if you have any questions, say, ”No, not at this time. Based on what you said (name 3 points), I am very interested in this position. I have the experience to do what the job requires. What is the next step?”
Keep the end of the interview short and sweet. After you ask what the next step is, listen to the answer. Let the employer lead the conversation. Keep a pencil in your mouth to remind you not to talk until you have to. The first one who speaks loses.
That, my friends, is how you do a telephone interview.
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© 2010- Cindy Cannon – All rights reserved.
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