As someone who would rather scrape old gum off the bottom of a school desk than talk on the phone, a little part of me dies when I am told I have to do a phone interview. Unfortunately, for people like me, mastering phone interviews are a necessary step in landing a decent job. Since I am such an awkward phone talker, I had to learn every trick and tip there is in order to get through a phone interview without crying. After years of trying just about everything, here is my list of insider advice learned from true trial and error. Learn from my mistakes, and save yourself from repeated rejection.
Learn everything there is to know about the company
Demonstrating that you took the time to do research will make you look good. Find out about the company’s involvement in the community and what sort of charitable donations they give.
Write out your answers to common interview questions
That silence you hear between you and your potential employer is the sound of your job slipping away. If you try and “just wing it” there will probably be a lot of “umms” and silence from your end while you scrape together a suitable answer. One question I always would fumble is the “What are your strengths and weakness?” First of all, what an inherently awkward question. Most initial phone interviews will be stock questions like that one which you can easily have pre-planned answers to that will sound super smooth.
Speak up and enunciate clearly
For God’s sake don’t mumble during a phone interview. If you are a low talker, be cognizant of that and try to talk louder than normal. Doing your homework, and having all the right answers, won’t matter one bit if nobody can hear you. Enunciate and pronounce everything clearly (and correctly). This will help you sound smart and sophisticated.
Use a landline phone
For a phone interview, you want to make sure that there will be absolutely no technological hitches that are your fault. No cell phone service is 100% all the time. Getting mysteriously disconnected or dropping the call is an embarrassing blunder that can still make you look bad, even if its not totally your fault.
Find a quiet space with zero distractions
For me, I know a space like this is NOT my house. Unless you live alone in a soundproof studio, it probably isn’t your house either. This means that you must be really strategic in deciding the time of your interview. You could leave home, but then you would be stuck relying on a cell phone. Try to schedule the interview for a time when nobody else is home, lock your front door (in case a friend stops by) and if you have pets, put them outside or in another room. It sounds drastic but you don’t want your interview interrupted by a screaming baby or barking dog.
Don’t eat, smoke, or chew gum
I know, it sounds really obvious but it’s easy to let yourself think that because the other person can’t see you, it doesn’t matter what you are doing. Not true! They can hear you! I had no idea people could hear me smoking on the other end of the line until someone piped up and told me. Chewing gum is especially bad because people can hear you smacking it around (eww) and it messes up your pronunciation of certain words. For you orally fixated folks, keep your mouth free of foreign objects during your interview.
Prepare questions to ask the interviewer
This is a mistake that a lot of people make. At the end of every interview, the person will ask “Do you have any questions for us today?” Since it comes at the end of the interview, most people just want to get off the phone at that point so they usually make the mistake of not asking a question. But, you should because it will make you appear more interested and engaged. People who ask questions are usually the ones who were paying attention.
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