Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nail That Phone Interview

The telephone is often described as a great sales tool, but selling yourself over the phone is much more difficult than promoting a product or service.

In today's economy, many organizations are shifting to an interview model that includes a telephone interview as the first step. This process ensures that both the employer and the perspective employee are interested before any additional time and money is consumed in a face-to-face interview. Regardless of how great people are in a sales role, most are not prepared to sell themselves over the phone. The most difficult component of a phone interview is that you can't see the other person. It's much more difficult to adjust your style and answers based on the interviewers reaction, because you simply can't physically see it! You only have the tone of their voice as an indicator - which may not be an accurate representation of what they are REALLY thinking.

However, you can use the lack of vision to your advantage. Here are some thing that you can do to improve your odds in a phone conversation that you couldn't do if you were sitting in a face-to-face interview.

Get up and move around. Try standing up and even walking around a bit during a phone interview. You will be surprised at how you may speak more clearly and confidently when standing.

Remove all distractions. You must try to find a nice, comfortable, and quiet place for your phone interview. Not only is it difficult for you to concentrate on the call, but the background noise is a distraction to the interviewer and you inability to be in a quiet place could be perceived as a lack of planning or interest. If the suggested time is not convenient for you to ensure you talk from a good place for you, ask the interviewer to reschedule for a better time. They want you to be your best as well!

Have a copy of your resume in front of you. Print out a copy of your resume to reference while answering questions. I would not advise you to speak directly from your resume during the interview, but your resume can be used as a cheat sheet for you to ensure you don’t forget any highlights in your experience.

Have a list of your key accomplishments. While many of your accomplishments may be included on your resume, having a list in front of you can't hurt. Quite often you will get asked questions about things you have done, or things that you are most proud of in your career. Be ready for these by thinking of creative stories that highlight these competencies and innovative ideas you want the interviewer to hear. These talking points will help you get in some of your own comments when applicable.

Frequently Asked Questions are asked frequently - so be prepared. In just a few seconds you can do a search on the Internet to find interview FAQ's. You can anticipate these questions and have your responses prepared and in front of you. Typically, these questions will include listing your strengths, your areas for improvement, a difficult challenge or situation you’ve encountered on the job and how you handled it, your most proud accomplishment, interest in this job and/or company, and your career goals. Make a list of these questions with a few bullet points under each question that include the key things you want to include in your response. Have a copy of these questions and your planned responses in front of you at the time of your call, and you will be amazed at how much easier these questions will feel.

Understand the job and why you are the right person for it. Research the company, division and job for which you are interviewing. Print out the job description for which you are being considered. If no job description is available (which is very likely), think about what your ideal job in the company would be or how you think you could best contribute given your skills and interests. Type up these ideas and print them out. This description will help you frame your answers and maintain your focus throughout the conversation.

Be prepared for the money question. In some cases, the interviewer might ask about your compensation needs. Whether or not you are willing to discuss this topic, you should at least be prepared to respond (even if the answer is, “I’m not prepared to discuss that at this stage.”). I’d suggest giving the interviewer a broad range of your expectations - but be realistic! Most likely, the interviewer just wants to ensure you are not completely out the company’s league and it makes sense to pursue further discussions. At a preliminary stage such as a phone interview, you shouldn’t feel compelled to discuss specifics, and likewise, you shouldn’t expect the interviewer to give you specifics. This topic is sort of a courting dance to make sure a second date is possible.

Have a list of questions. Every interview ends with the interviewer asking, “Do you have any questions for me?” Since you know the question is coming, write down two to three questions you’d like to ask ahead of time. Questions that include things like discussing first year expectations, listing key components of success in this role, review where they expect the company to be in 5 years, future career opportunities in the company, etc. show your desire to be successful and gives a long term perspective of this opportunity


Bret Julian said...

Nice really seem to know what you're doing!

Bret Julian said...

Nice seem to really know what you're doing!

SweetWICK said...

Thanks for the post. Very helpful!