As in most of my blogs, I claim no panaceas for interviewing or final incontrovertible wisdom. All I have is a lot of experience in the war zone. I do not believe anyone can give another person a foolproof strategy for finding employment. If my experience helps someone, I am glad of it. I do recommend reading and practicing sample answers and questions readily available on the Internet.
Being invited to a phone interview always pleased me — often more so than a personal, physical meeting. The phone interview is a warm up for the real thing. The phone opportunity provides anonymity that can be advantageous. One point is that the interviewer has limited the evaluation to one of the senses, i.e. hearing. The interviewee is free to prop her legs up on the footstool and sip a little iced tea. You’re even free to walk around a little. The interviewer cannot see fidgeting, shuffling feet or drifting, insecure eyes. However, the voice can also reflect any of these weaknesses too. I don’t recommend smoking at a phone interview. Even for a phone interview I did not wear grubbies or skip combing my hair or shaving. Why? I felt better. I never, however, wore a tie for a phone interview unless it happened to be during time stolen from my work day.
I liked phone interviews because I have had a lot of experience conducting business on the phone. The telephone gives me a sense of objectivity, a distance. I, too, in a positive way was forced to use one medium; then, too, a number of people had complimented me on my telephone manner. I am like most disc jockeys, rather introverted. The phone gave me an impersonal situation I could use to my advantage. The challenge lay in maintaining that confidence and “presence” in a personal interview later.
At the same time I assumed that the phone interview is used when the number of interesting applicants is rather high. Phone interviews are screens, most likely designed to eliminate candidates. On the phone one interviews for another interview, not a position. My whole objective was to get a physical interview, but not to be too eager. Sometimes I might answer a question briefly and then add, “This seems to me to be an important question for both of us. I hope I will have an opportunity to provide more details in person. I have a written proposal I once gave on the subject. ”
I tried as hard as I could to match voices with names, but rather than address the wrong person, I did not hesitate to say, “I think that was Roger, right?” The interviewer or team will be helpful. I wrote names down during the introduction. If possible. I tried to catch the company name. No harm in asking, “Now, tell me where youwork again?”
Do not jump to conclusions about anything based on tone of voice. Do not react negatively to what sounds patronizing or sanctimonious. That person may not even be on the second interview team.
A telephone is a great medium for being one’s self, for being forthright and candid, but not familiar.
If necessary ask for the question to be repeated for clarity — that buys a little time for thought.
Speak clearly and to the point. Do not go on and on. The telephone invites informality and directness — sometimes too much. Use the medium for what is. “I could say more on this favorite topic, but I know we haven’t the time.”
If you notice a thread, say “Well, to you and Roger, I would say . . .”
At some point ask, “Does this position entail significant telephone communication?” If it is a sales or PR position say, “I know that the position requires excellent telephone skills. In my past work I . . . ”
On the telephone one can close his eyes even and imagine a receptive person on the other end. Speak to that positive person you visualize — maybe it is your friend, parent, or favorite uncle you are imaging.
Having a friend or spouse in the room might be a help or a hindrance. If silent companionship helps, hold hands, but don’t get palsy walsy. Got a cat or laid back dog for your lap or at your feet. A pet may do something to make you smile. That smile will relax you. You can do no wrong in the estimation of a pet. Besides, in my experience animals have a way of putting things in perspective. There will be more interviews.
Steadfast and cautious,