Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Not to Blow a Phone Interview....Part Deux!

How Not to Blow a Phone Interview: Part Deux!

This article was first published as How Not to Blow a Phone Interview: Part Deux! on Technorati. 

Think of the phone interview as the work version of speed dating.  The current job market is very active, meaning that most posted or advertised openings have hundreds of applicants.  More and more hiring managers are scheduling phone screens as a first gateway to quickly assess if a candidate has the right skills, communication style and attitude to warrant a face-to-face meeting.  It’s your one shot, so be sure you don’t blow it.  Hopefully, you read my former post with the first 3 tips on this topic.  If not, here is a link to that article: http://technorati.com/business/article/how-not-to-blow-a-phone/. Now, for some more ideas on how NOT to blow your interview.

1)     Look in the Mirror!  If possible, have a mirror close by.  Go ahead, check yourself  while you’re talking.  Are you smiling?    If you’re not, your caller will definitely hear it.  Before the call, relax, take some deep breaths, stretch a bit, have a sip of water, spit out your gum, put any snacks away, and take a good look at yourself.  Smile, be confident and convey an upbeat mood and attitude.
2)     Use Cue Cards!  Since it is a phone interview, the caller cannot see you. Make this work to your advantage.  Have questions written out beforehand, have your resume printed out and ready for you to reference.  Have some notes on the company/hiring manager/job handy that you’ve either pulled from the internet, from your recruiter, or from your own super sleuth detective work.  I recommend printing out your resume, highlighting key things that you want to be sure to convey (more on this in the next tip).  Write out a few key questions on notecards in fairly large print and have them laid out on the desk or table in front of you.  Be sure to ask them and jot down responses as you chat.  Have the job description and other data points handy, again highlighted or notated with where you want clarification.  This would seem awkward in a personal interview, but use your temporary “cloak of invisibility” to your advantage and you’ll sound better prepared, more articulate and more engaged in the interview.
3)     Practice Makes Perfect! Practice your elevator pitch!  Be sure you have well rehearsed and compelling answers to the standard interview questions that you know you’re likely to get.  These include strengths, weakness, why you’re looking, and the old standby, “tell me about yourself”.  Be fully ready to explain any gaps in employment, salary history and any significant career path changes you’ve made.  Be prepared, write out answers in advance and practice saying them a few times so you’re sure they sound natural, confident and credible before the phone interview! A tip I like to share is to gather several colors of highlighter pens and a printed copy of your resume and the job description for which you’re interviewing.  On the job description, pull out the top 3-5 required skills/attributes or experience factors needed for success.  Highlight each one in a different color.  Now, go to your resume and map those colors/skills back, so that your resume is now highlighted in the same colors and you can easily walk the caller through how your experience specifically matches their requirements.   
4)     Be attractive!  Look we’re all human and we tend to respond to people who think, talk and act like we do.  Now I’m not suggesting that you try to sound like Dolly Parton if you’re interviewing with someone in Tennessee or like Tony Soprano if you’re talking to a manager in the Garden State.  But there are subtle things you can do to make the interviewer more at ease with your communication style and more interested in taking things to the next phase. Listen to the interviewer.  Are they animated or more even keel?  Excitable and passionate? Or grounded and soft-spoken?  Pay attention and adapt your tone and pace of speaking to match theirs slightly, keeping it very natural.  Jot down key words that they use and try to reiterate those in your own dialog so you’ll be “speaking the same language”.  Try to avoid any negative words and stay positive. Ask them questions that show you’re engaged, interested in them, their perspective on the organization, and the role. Please don’t interrupt them!  On a cell phone, this may mean waiting 2-3 seconds after they finish talking to speak just to be sure.  If I sound a bit like I’m giving dating advice, that’s ok.   Remember, the phone interview is like speed dating, and you want to be the one to control whether you get a real date, or not.

Love them or not, phone interviews are here to stay.  Hopefully, these tips will help you shine in this somewhat awkward format, and win the interview.  Look for my final installment on this topic in the next few days.....Go get ‘em! 

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