Almost ten years ago, I had a phone interview with Kylie Carlson, the Director of the Australian Academy of Wedding & Event Planning. It actually wasn’t a job interview. The job I had enquired about had gone, but there was something about my emailed response to an advertisement Kylie had sent out to students (I was one at the time), that caught her eye. Long story short, Kylie asked to chat with me regardless. I was pretty excited, as at that time I had a very small home-based business with a few corporate event clients and I was looking for something more, but I wasn’t sure what. So a chat, that could lead somewhere, or give me some inspiration for what to do next, sounded great.
Somehow, however, I confused the time of our meeting. I think I transposed ‘today into tomorrow’ in my mind. It probably had something to do with the time of the day I read the email and my initial disappointment at missing out on the job, peppered with the excitement I felt about her wanting to chat with me anyway; suffice to say, by the time the penny dropped, I had just missed the call. Kylie has since told me that she determined in that moment that she had mis-judged me and questioned what it was that made her want to initiate a chat with me anyway. Of course at the time, I knew none of this and did the only thing I could think of, call her and admit my error (revealing my passion and willingness to put myself right out there – trust me I was embarrassed enough to climb under a rock, but this is your first lesson, if you want something you have to push through the comfortable place).
From the moment we started talking I knew I had my work cut-out for me, as whilst I had made a good first impression in my email to her, the missed call was not a good follow up impression. Not a great start to a phone interview, but I pushed on and thankfully I did turn that opportunity around and here I am today, in a position where I can tell my story from the pages of the Wedding Academy Live blog.
So, what does all this mean for you? Let’s look at my email to Kylie as a Resume or Cover Letter you submit to an employer. Perhaps it is an email you sent to someone as an expression of interest for work, or work experience. You make a good enough impression that they want to chat to you, but they have suggested a phone interview, not a face to face one. Sometimes the reasons for this are logistical (as was the case for Kylie and I), sometimes its a time management strategy and sometimes its a way for an employer to work through a list of possible applicants, to find the ones they want to proceed to a face to face interview with. Whatever is the case, if you have yourself a phone interview, your want to maximise the opportunity so you move the relationship on to the next level, whatever that may be. The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to take it too casually (learn a lesson here from my expeirence above…I very nearly ruined the best opportunity to ever come my way, in a big way). So what other tips do I have for you when it comes to phone interviews?
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare! – Learn from my mistake. Make sure you know the day and time of the interview and set yourself a reminder to be sure you are ready for it. Research the company you are seeking employment with and write up a little BIO about them to help you refer to specifics within the interview. Also write some questions that you can ask, for example; how do you see this role contributing to the success of the company? If possible find an online photograph of the person who will be interviewing you and if they have a blog or social media feed for the business, spend some time there getting to know their ‘tone and style’ (but don’t stalk anyone’s personal account to do this and do not ask them to become your ‘friend’ – too soon!).
2. Take care of the Basics – Ensure that you are in a quite place where you won’t be interrupted for the interview. No barking dogs, crying babies, children asking for help with homework. If this can’t be achieved from home, consider going somewhere else for the interview (also think about these things when asked what your preferred time for the interview is). If you can, take the call on a land-line to ensure there are no pesky issues with connection and if you must use a mobile phone, make sure it is fully charged, consider using a headset and ask for the caller’s number if it doesn’t appear, just in case you do get disconnected.
3. Bring your ‘A’ Game – this might be a phone interview, but put yourself in the right mood for it. Don’t do it in your PJ’s, or sloppy workout gear. Ok you don’t have to go as far as you might for a face to face interview, but you also want to ‘feel’ professional whilst you talk to the person interviewing you. So, whatever you need to do, to make sure you in that frame of mind, do it. If that means putting on your ‘get that job’ outfit, killer heels and lippy, do it. If possible sit at a desk, in a chair with a supportive back for the call and watch your posture. Slumping affects the tone in your voice, as does having a smile on your face, so try to bring a few of those into the conversation too. Don’t wander about with the phone, do anything else whilst the interview is going on, or sit at the desk with your head in your hand, or the phone crunched into your shoulder – it’s amazing how you can pick up someone’s interest across the phone line. Do have a glass of water and a notepad and pen handy.
4. Cheat Sheets – This is the advantage of a phone interview. First, ensure your clear your desk of clutter and unnecessary papers. Place the questions you want to ask typed out on a sheet of paper in front of you, along with information about the company and the person interviewing you. If there are some points you want to ensure that you get across about your work experience, skills and attributes, write those down too; think power words that will sell you to the employer. Also have a copy of your Resume and Cover Letter handy, so you can refer to these if the interviewer asks questions relating to aspects of them. Ideally you will have these spread out in front of you so you can see each page clearly. You do not want the interviewer to hear you rustling papers. Alternatively file each sheet into a clear leaf folder and turn the pages quitely when you must. Being able to have this information at close hand is an advantage and should give you confidence, but don’t let it become a crutch. You want your personality to shine through and you you do not want to sound like you are reading from a script.
5. Focus – Whilst a phone interview offers you the chance to prepare and have those cheat sheets handy, they also offer an opportunity to become distracted. There is someting about not having the person in front of you that can lead to becoming distracted and not listening properly. I have experienced this myself when interviewing people over the phone. As I mentioned above, clear your desk of clutter, turn off the computer, make sure you will not be interrupted, that another phone won’t ring and let anyone close by at the time know that you are not to be disturbed. Ideally put yourself in a room and shut the door. Avoid waffling and giving long-winded answers. Generally a phone interview is shorter than a face to face one so try to be concise and stay focussed throughout. However, take your time before answering and consider those answers carefully. Of course, you don’t want to leave long pauses between questions and answers, but its ok to take a breath, order your thoughts and then answer the question clearly and concisely. Also remember to show interest in what the interviewer is saying and ask questions. Without you there in front of them to see your reactions they will be relying on your responses, so remember to laugh when its appropriate and comment on what they have said along the way.
6. Follow Through – I think this is a key step for any interview, but its often not done. At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for their time and after 48 hours, follow up with an email. The email should be short and to the point. Thank the interviewing for their time earlier in the week or on such and such a day, refer back to the interview and reaffirm you commitment to the role. Show a little passoin but refrain from begging. All you want to do here is remind the interviewer that you are motivated and passionate and someone they should be considering.
Do you have some Phone Interview tips or experiences to share? I would love to hear them and if you are a Student/Graduate member of our private Facebook group, Academy Live, join me there for more on this topic (not a member, if you are a student or graduate of the Academy, email me to receive an invite).