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Preparing for the Telephone Interview

Telephone interviews are increasingly commonplace; especially for IT positions.  The need to make a good impression on the phone cannot be overemphasized. The telephone screening interview is a make-or-break proposition.  Included below are some important factors to consider when you are selected for a telephone interview.  Preparation will increase your confidence and ability to focus on the conversation during the interview as well as enabling you to make a favorable impression.
Clear a work area near the phone and keep the following tools handy to aid your fact gathering and information sharing. 
1. A copy of the version of the resume you sent to the interviewer. 
2. A note pad and pen. 
3. Two or three carefully worded questions you’ll want to ask. 
4. Company literature with pertinent sections highlighted. 
5. A calendar. 
6. A watch or clock.

Phone Personality

Voice reflects personality.  The quality, pitch and tempo of your speech convey a certain attitude, energy level and enthusiasm. “Enthusiasm and excitement are the biggest selling points of candidates talking on the phone,” says Mr. Young of First American Rehab. “This translates directly over to their performance and work ethic.” Here are some practical tips to enhance your phone “personality” and overall presentation.

  • Talk directly into the mouthpiece. Hold the receiver approximately three inches from the mouth, not below your chin or above your nose. Speak in a relaxed, conversational style as though the other person were in the same room, not on the other side of the plant.   Remember to enunciate especially clearly, a slight accent or slur can sound much more emphasized when there are no visuals.
  • Avoid sitting in a hunched position, grasping the phone in a vise-like grip. This will add a note on stress, and your voice will communicate that uneasiness. Try standing, it opens your diaphragm to a smoother air flow and imparts a feeling of liveliness. Getting up and moving around introduces an element of action, which instills a relaxed, conversational manner and reduces fatigue. A longer cord or cordless phone will maximum mobility.
  • Pay attention to the interviewer’s voice patterns; does he speak slowly or rapidly?  Try to match the cadence so that the conversion flows smoothly. Adjust your speaking rate, voice volume and phrasing to be more in rhythm with the interviewer.
  • Sound upbeat. Genuine enthusiasm is contagious. Smile to show a sense of humor.
  • Be a conversationalist. Listen carefully to get the big picture and to avoid saying something that indicates any momentary mental distraction. Allow the interviewer to complete questions without you finishing his train of thought or blurting out answers prematurely.
  • Handle any trick questions in stride. The interviewer may throw in several to test your alertness or mental keenness. Be cautious: the interviewer may say something that puzzles you or that you firmly disagree with. Show enough respect to voice your thoughts in a professional manner. A defensive posture or argumentative tone is the surest way to alienate the interviewer and eliminate your candidacy.

General Telephone Interview Tactics

  • Establishing a rapport at the beginning of the phone conversation sets a favorable tone.
  • During the first few minutes, mention something that shows commonality of interest or similarity in background. This helps both parties feel more comfortable as the conversation progresses.
  • Get to know the person behind the voice. Does he show a sense of humor? Is she direct and forthright in supplying information? Does his speech sound “canned”, or does it exhibit freshness of thought and expression? Just as importantly, does she listen to you, or merely wait for the chance to ask her next question? The interviewer may be a HR manager or a hiring manager. If the individual is someone with whom you will be working, pay all the more attention to her explanation of the job and what potential it offers.
  • Your prepared list of questions will indicate that you have given careful thought to the prospect of joining the firm. Even though you don’t know everything about the position at this point, convey the impression that it’s something you are interested in and competent at handling.
  • Only in a face-to-face interview can you totally sell yourself. The purpose of the phone interview is to identify areas of mutual interest that warrant further investigation. In other words, whet their curiosity and give them good reasons for wanting to invite you to the company location.
  • As you glance over your notes and keep an eye on the clock, there may be additional important points to cover in the pre-allotted time frame. Tactfully take control and introduce the subject matter that needs to be discussed or further elaborated. Example:  “That’s a good point. Can we come back to it a little later? I have some additional thoughts on the subject we were discussing a moment ago.”
  • As the conversation winds down, become less talkative and give more thought to what you say. Your final words will generally have greater impact and be remembered longer. Careful word choice and voice inflection will under-score the significance of your remarks. By contrast, a machine-gun volley of words will likely put the listener on the defensive or turn him off altogether.

The Home Stretch

  • After 30 minutes, both parties should know how much of a “fit” there is. Provided the job interests you, express your desire to proceed to the next step: an in person interview.
  • The interviewer may extend an invitation at that point.  The onsite company visit interview will be coordinated between Andiamo Partners and the hiring manager (or Human Resources at the company).   Follow up with your Andiamo Partners recruiter to discuss the next steps and gather feedback.
  • End the conversation on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for the information shared. Let her know again that you look forward to visiting the company. After all, if the position discussed is not the ideal job for you, something else might be. Improved telephone interviewing techniques can really give you a competitive edge.
  • If you are sincerely interested in the position and are satisfied with the answers given, you should ask the interviewer if he/she feels you are qualified for the position. This gives you another chance to review points that may need clarification. Illustrate confidence in your abilities and convince the interviewer that you are capable of handing the position successfully.

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