By Joe Stein
Phone interviews can be a real challenge. During an in-person interview, a Job Seeker relies on so many senses beyond just hearing, but in a phone screen that is all you have to utilize. The reality is virtually everyone will have to conduct some type of phone conversation during the course of searching for a position.
For a Job Seeker, acing a phone screen has almost become essential, as the practice becomes a standard part of the process. How does someone prepare themselves for the phone screen? The following are some quick and easy tips that will get you ready for your next phone conversation with a Recruiter.
· Be accessible for scheduling of your phone screen by providing at least one (preferable also an alternative) contact number and a professional voice message. Return the call ASAP, but no later than 8 hours from when it was left (this may require you to frequently check your messages).
· Do not dive into a phone screen if you are not ready for the conversation. Sometimes, a Recruiter will call you and expect to immediately conduct the conversation. That is great if you are mentally prepared (no waiting for you!), but terrible if you are not ready. You will (most likely) only get one chance for the job, so don’t waste it on an unprepared phone screen.
· Create some space for phone screening. It does not have to be a fancy office setting, but you will need a quiet and comfortable area where you can concentrate and escape any distractions (i.e., family/friends and pets). In this space, have a pen and paper ready (so you can take notes to use later in the conversation), along with your job search files (have the advert in front of you). This way, you can have quick access to the information you will need. Allow space for the method of speaking you feel is most comfortable. Some people need to sit down, while others love to pace around. If you do like to be mobile, make sure your walking does not interfere with your ability to clearly communicate. You may find that by standing, your voice will sound more confident and project at a greater level. It is very challenging to conduct the conversation while outside. Doing this, requires you to deal with weather (such as wind) and other various noises, so outside communication should be avoided, if possible.
· Take advantage of the lack of an in-person presence by having your job search files accessible, along with your Resume, Cover Letter, and a summary of your accomplishments. This will allow you to answer key questions intelligently.
· Be sure to have a professional phone connection. A landline is your best bet to have a good communication experience. A mobile phone is a bit of a risk (bad connection and dropped calls), but OK if you have a history of a good connection in that area. If you have call waiting, please disable it for the call. You don’t want any distracting clicks on the line.
· Act like it is an interview, by behaving and looking the part. Make eye contact on a certain spot and make sure to smile, as this will help convey a positive persona. Feel free to get dressed up in your interview outfit. All this will help place you in the interview mindset.
· Stay focused during the discussion. It is quite easy to lose your concentration due to not having a person to zero in on. The lack of a visual will require you to concentrate that much more on what is being said.
· Do not allow any vocal distractions, such as mints, gum, or cigarettes. As nervous as you may be, the Interviewer will be able to tell on the other line. You can keep a glass of water accessible, so you can discretely sip between answers.
· Listen intently to the Interviewer. Listen for verbal clues. Concentrate on breaks in the conversation, so you can answer or comment without interrupting the other person. Any silence may seem even more excruciating to you, but avoid your desire to fill every second with your voice.
· Really zone in on how you are projecting yourself verbally. Balance sounding enthusiastic, while also speaking clearly and slowly. Do not rush and start to speak too fast or ramble, but also avoid mumbling and projecting indifference. Avoid slang and the dreaded “um”, “uh”, “like”, and “you know”.
· Use the pen and paper by your side to take important mental notes of key items or points you may want to use later in the conversation. You will also want to note your answers to questions, as it may be asked again when in-person and you will want consistency in your answers.
· Even though you did not have a personal, in-person meeting, it is still a good practice to follow your phone screen with a thank you note/e-mail. The note should thank the person for the time spent on the phone, let them know you enjoyed the conversation, and convey that you look forward to speaking with them again. This will reinforce your contact information and your interest level.
Phone screens have become pretty standard for Interviewers. It makes good, common sense to become comfortable with this inevitable part of the job search process.