By: Murray A. Mann and Rose Mary Bombela-Tobias
We love the advantages of High Definition (HD) television, radio, DVDs and video games. The pictures are amazingly clear and almost three-dimensional. The surround sound is life-like. HD media not only makes us feel like we are there, but also engages us to become active participants.
Why not evolve your telephone interviews into high definition conversations. You can connect on the phone in a way that the interviewer feels as if you are meeting face-to-face and develops a complete picture of who you are and the value you bring to the employer. In this way you compel the interviewer to advance you to the next stage of the hiring process.
‘In Can You Hear Me Now? The Art of Successful Telephone Screening Interviews’));?> we discussed the growing trend by companies to use telephone interviews to pre-screen applicants and winning strategies you can use. Below we provide you with a step-by-step guide to successful high definition phone interviewing. You can read the whole checklist or use any of the following links to connect to your area of interest.
- Prepare Your Voice Mail, Answering Machine and Household Member Message Taking
- Prepare your Telephone Interview Space
- If the Phone Interview Will Occur At a Set Time
- Practice Your Telephone Interview Techniques
- Try These Winning Telephone Interview Techniques
- When a Recruiter Calls Unexpectedly
- Conducting the Phone Interview
- Closing the Interview
Prepare Your Voice Mail, Answering Machine and Household Member Message Taking
- During your job search, keep a simple professional sounding greeting on your answering machine or voicemail.
- Make sure that your message has at least one simple identifier that you are comfortable with, so that the employers know that they have reached the correct number.Examples: ”You’ve reached the Ruiz family. Please leave a detailed message at the tone and we will return your call as soon as possible” “You’ve reached Andres and Maria Elena. Please leave a message” or “You’ve reached 949-000-000. Please leave a message. . .” Again, each job seeker must determine what is comfortable. Don’t change your message if you feel uncomfortable about having this information on your outgoing greeting.
- If the position you are applying for requires bilingual skills, repeating your message in Spanish demonstrates proficiency in both languages.
- Ensure that household members understand the importance of taking detailed phone messages in your job search.
Prepare your Telephone Interview Space
- If possible dedicate space at home for your telephone interview. This spot should be quiet, ideally has a door that closes, and is somewhere you can easily talk on the phone.
You will need to read notes, take notes, and concentrate.
- Keep your resume near the phone. It will be there for the call and will be a constant reminder for your job search.
- Create a small file for each position you apply for within easy reach of the phone. The file should include:
- the job posting and specific company research (with highlighted key points)
- a copy of the resume you sent in (if it was modified for the position)
- your 3 to 5 strengths and position related accomplishments for the position
- ‘S.T.A.R. stories’));?> and note cards
- specific questions you want to ask the employer
- Have paper and pen handy to take notes. Do not take notes on a computer unless your keyboard is silent.
- Have your calendar or PDA available to schedule an in-person interview.
- Be sure to use a high quality phone, handset or headset when participating in a phone interview. To ensure you are communicating clearly, do not use a speakerphone or a cell phone.
- If you are using a portable phone, make sure your unit has fresh batteries and that you stay within range.
- Place a mirror where you can see the image you are projecting. It comes across in your voice.
If the Phone Interview Will Occur at a Set Time
- Warm up your voice while waiting for the call.
- Review your notes.
- Place a “Do Not Disturb” note on your door.
- Turn off your stereo, TV, and any other potential distractions.
- Have a glass of water handy, in case you need a drink of water.
- Speaking of breaks, if your phone interview is at a set time, make sure you use the rest room.
- Turn off call waiting on your phone.
Practice Your Telephone Interview Techniques
- Have members of your career familia call you to conduct a mock phone interview so you gain experience of being interviewed over the phone. The calls can be scheduled and unscheduled to help you prepare for both types.
- If possible, tape-record the practice interview so you can hear yourself.
- If the position requires Spanish language skills, practice in both languages.
- Practice so that your responses do not sound scripted and you feel comfortable enough to not fumble over important points.
Try These Winning Telephone Interview Techniques that Help You Sound “Hireable”
If your phone interview is scheduled for the early morning, change out of your pajamas, take a shower, and have a cup of coffee or tea to clear your voice.
- Dress nicely. You will actually project a more professional image than if you were wearing sweats. Dressing better helps you act as if you were at an in-person interview. It can improve your confidence.
- Stand during the phone interview. Many experts say that standing improves your telephone presence and helps you sound more professional. It gets your blood flowing, improves your posture, speeds your response time and makes your voice stronger. Standing and even a little pacing back and forth helps give an action perspective to an otherwise passive activity.
- Look in the mirror regularly and smile. Smiling improves your telephone voice. You will find yourself coming across much friendlier, more interested, and more alert. Seeing yourself as you are speaking on the phone lets you know if you need to change your phone attitude to project a more positive presence.
- Match the interviewer’s phone personality. Try to use the same speaking rate, tone and pitch as the interviewer, as much as you are comfortable with. Hearing the familiar speaking style helps the recruiter to feel more connected to you. It is an excellent way to establish rapport quickly over distance and phone lines.
When a Recruiter Calls Unexpectedly
- If you receive an unexpected call from a recruiter and he or she expects to interview you right then and there. Your first step, be calm! Ask for some time to get yourself ready.Examples: ”Terrific…could you give me a moment to go to a room where we won’t be interrupted?” or “Could you give me just a moment to close the door?”When they agree, cover the voice piece on the phone and go to your quiet area where you have all of your job search material prepared, take two or three deep breaths, and then continue.
- If you are genuinely unable to devote enough time to an unscheduled phone interview or not ready to continue with the interview, politely ask the recruiter for an alternate time. It is preferable to proceed with the interview; if possible, you might not get a call back. If you must reschedule then, offer to be the one who calls back at a scheduled time.
Conducting the Phone Interview
- Breathe deeply and relax. Speak slowly, clearly and with purpose. Remember your initial goal is to create a great first impression.
- Confirm the interviewers name and the position you are being screened for. Request the correct spelling and pronunciation of the interviewer’s name.
- Ask, “how much time will we have for this interview?” This will help you determine how to respond to the recruiter’s questions.
- Take notes. You might hear something important about the position or company that you could refer to later. They will also be invaluable to you in preparing for the face-to-face meeting
- Listen carefully to the interviewers questions to understand the intent of the questions. Since telephone interviews are time-limited, you will be able to provide your best responses.
- Use the technique of repeating or re-phrasing questions. It tells the caller that you listened carefully, and gives you time to think about your answer.
- Avoid a simple yes or no answer; add selling points at every opportunity
- Be brief when answering your questions – you want to be thorough and keep up your end of the conversation, but you also don’t want to ramble.
- Support your statements with detailed examples of accomplishments when possible. It is easy for someone to get distracted on a phone call, so paint a vivid picture to keep the interviewer interested.
- Use your list of talking points of related skills and accomplishments; cross them off as you work them into the conversation. At the end, if you have some uncrossed items that are relevant to the interviewer, you might ask the following:Example: ”I thought you might be interested to know I coordinated the Hispanic market development project, quite similar to what you are planning. I managed a $50,000 budget for Latino Friendly Company, Inc and increase our customer base by 30%.”
- Use the interviewer’s last name occasionally (only use a first name if the recruiter asks you to) and refer to the company by name a few times.
- Do not feel you have to fill in the silences. If you’ve completed a response, but the interviewer hasn’t asked his or her next question, don’t start babbling just to fill in airtime. Instead, ask a question of your own related to your last response.
- If you hear anything about the company or position that is particularly interesting or attractive, say so – remarks like “That sounds exciting”, “What a great opportunity,” or “I worked on a very similar project with my last company and loved it” can convey your interest in the position and the company, which could help increase your chances of being invited to the face-to-face interview
- Deliver a strong finish to your phone interview with thoughtful questions.
- Avoid sniffling, sneezing or coughing. If you can’t prevent these actions, say “excuse me.”
- No gum chewing, eating or drinking except a little water, if needed keep your voice clear.
Closing the Interview
- Show you’re interested. When it feels right and it sounds like the interview is wrapping up, ask for a date to meet for face-to-face interview.Example: ”This sounds like a great position and I know I could step in and contribute. I would love the opportunity to sit down with you in person and discuss this even further. When could we meet for an interview?”
- If the interviewer hedges or says “I’ll call you”, try to politely probe a little further. Ask “When might I likely hear back from you?”
- If you are invited for the face-to-face interview, be certain to thank the interviewer and get the important details – when, where, with whom you are interviewing, the format of the interview or process (length and how many interviews are normally undertaken) and is there anything in particular you need to bring. Repeat the key details to make sure your notes are accurate.
- Remember to thank the interviewer for the opportunity and their time.
- Do not hang up until the interviewer has hung up.
After the Call
- Immediately after the call, add to your notes about what you were asked and how you answered.
- Next, write a short thank-you note. Adapt the wording for a phone interview.Example: ”Thank you for spending time with me on the phone today talking about the enrollment management position. I enjoyed the conversation and have a better understanding of the job. I’d be interested in an on-site interview, and would welcome the opportunity to further discuss my candidacy.”