10.5   Phone Interviews Done Right!

Many people struggle with what to do when confronted with an interview on the telephone. Telephone interviews are one of the toughest events a job seeker faces. First of all, the phone call frequently comes unexpectedly or at an inconvenient time. Secondly, you have more difficulty judging the reaction to your comments and answers when you cannot see a person's face. Should you continue? Should you stop? Hard to say. Thirdly, it is harder to establish rapport with someone when you are not in the same room. There are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and improve your chances of a positive outcome with a telephone interview.

The first rule of telephone interviewing is: get information before giving information. Ask for the name and title of the person calling and what department they are calling from. You will also want to ask what position they will be interviewing you for. I would also suggest that you ask them to describe to you the available position or positions. Get the name and phone number of the person so that if you get disconnected you will be able to call them back. (If you are on your cell phone, it should capture the number but if the number is blocked you may not get the number if you do not ask for it, so always ask).

Rule number two of telephone interviewing is: do not allow yourself to go through an interview if you feel you are not at your very best. It is OK to ask to schedule another time when you are more prepared. Your chances of making a good impression are much better if you are feeling good when you are interviewed. You will want to reschedule for the soonest possible time. Sometimes you may just want to get your thoughts and notes together. You can ask if you can call them back in ten to fifteen minutes.

Picture this. You just got home from a long day of work or if you are a student from classes and working on your senior project. It is 9 PM and you are rung out, dead tired and you haven't had anything to eat since early morning. The phone rings and it turns out to be a manager from a company you met at a job fair. (Since some candidates are hard to reach during the day, managers frequently call late at night to try to catch you). How do you handle it? Do you really want to be interviewed under these circumstances? It is a great company and you would just love to work for them but you don't want to blow it by answering tough questions while you are in a hunger fog. Since you are not at your best, you want to reschedule the phone interview to a time when you can put your best foot forward.

If the call came at a time when you are not too tired or distracted or stressed or disorganized or dripping on the rug because you just stepped out of the shower, the time you spend listening to the information the caller/employer is sharing with you will allow you to get your thoughts and notes together so that when the questions begin, you will know who you are interviewing with and what position you are being interviewed for. You will know what you want to say about your background because you will have information on which to base your comments.

If you are too tired or have had a beer and don't feel you can present well, ask if you can schedule a time when you are fresher and more alert. Get a phone number and an email address. Be sure to establish who is calling whom at the appointed time. Then email a confirmation and tell them you are looking forward to your phone interview. Make sure when you are being interviewed that you find a quiet place and pull yourself together and assemble your notes before the call.

Sometimes it is best to just not answer. Yes, you can just ignore the phone when you might make a less than favorable impression. That is why you pay for a voice message service. Use it!

Remember the career binder with the A to Z index, that you developed to organize your career plan, where you file all of the information on the jobs you are applying for by company name? Now is when it will pay off. Be sure to place the binder by the phone for easy access when the phone call comes in. Have fresh paper and a pen in the binder to take notes while the caller is explaining the available position and giving you his/her contact information. Review anything you have from your previous contacts with the company: review job descriptions; information gathered during your research on the company; the history of your application process including names of the individuals to whom you have sent your resume and transcripts.

Telephone interviews can work out great! Just make sure you are at your best and that you have everything you need at your fingertips when you go through one.