Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 Tips for Acing Your Phone Interview

I recently acquiesced to the notion that my move-to-Thailand-and-eat/pray/blog/love plan is highly unlikely. Instead, to the shock and awe of many (many being my mom, who thinks I’m fat and therefore unemployable), I’ve decided to partake in real-world, adult employment.

Somewhere in Taiwan, my ancestors cheer.

As a result, I’ve done quite a few phone interviews in the past two months, on top of all the ones I’ve done for internships in summers past. I will preface this by saying I’m no career expert, but I have gotten a solid number of call-backs, so I must be doing something right.

Here are my five, long-winded tips for acing a phone interview.

1. Prep, prep, prep.

There was one point in my life in which I thought that you should just go into an interview and be yourself. My stance on “being yourself” hasn’t changed — just that you should probably be the best representation of yourself, not the groggy, stammery self you sometimes are.

I like to make a list of every single potential question that I think my interviewer might ask me, and rehearse my responses. (I’m not good at memorizing lines, so I don’t have the problem of sounding too rehearsed. But if you are, you may want to use bullet points instead of writing out full answers.) There are websites a plenty that offer commonly asked questions. If you know the specific position you’re interviewing for, check to see if you can Google questions that have been asked in past interviews — sometimes you can find a few on GlassDoor.com.

My friend Jenny Blake also has a handy job interview one-sheeter that’s great for making sure you’re hitting all the right points.

2. Make sure you’re in a quiet location. With great reception. And a fully charged battery. And a backup plan in case your phone dies for whatever reason.

Your interviewer doesn’t care if AT&T sucks or the person on the other side of your wall is playing Miley Cyrus at 2 in the afternoon. He/she doesn’t have time to waste. You’d better be sure that your call isn’t going to drop, that your roommates aren’t day drinking in the living room, and that your Toffee has a muzzle on. (Jk, Toffee. Would never do that to you.) I don’t have a landline, so my backup plan is calling from my paid Skype account if my phone fails.

3. Use your notes and keep your computer handy.

The advantage you have of being on the phone is that you can reference all your preparation material during the interview. In order to avoid shuffling my papers, I tape up my resume, my notes, the job description, and any pages I might like to reference (for example, company overview, a list of products I should be familiar with, etc.) to the wall at eye-level.

I also keep my laptop nearby for emergent searches. I don’t think I’ve ever actually needed to pull anything up on the computer during an interview, but it’s nice to have in case you do.

4. Dress up, stand up and smile!

Now, I’m a firm believer that some of your best thinking happens when you’re in your jammies. In fact, I’m writing this from the sofa in the same clothes I went to bed in last night — and let’s face it, this is the most useful post I’ve written in weeks, right?

But when it comes to phone interviews, I put on whatever outfit I would wear to an actual interview because it makes me feel like I’m going to kick more ass. My roommates are probably pretty confused by my bipolar outfit choices as of late (blogger-chic yoga pants and giant sweater one day, button-down and pencil skirt the next — no in between!) 

I also stand up and walk around a little bit; maybe it’s just me, but I feel more energetic and my voice sounds more upbeat. Most of all, look excited — they can hear your smile in your voice!

5. Record yourself.

Hat tip to Annie, who gave me this idea. Listening to yourself talk is sometimes painful — but it’s also the best way to improve. I’ve just been setting up my Canon in video mode. After the interview is over, I try to jot down the questions that were asked based on my responses while the interview is still fresh in my memory. I also go over the responses or types of questions that I need to practice more for future reference.

There you have it. Let me know if you actually end up putting any of this into practice! Got any tips for me? Share in the comments!

Notes

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  7. annieisms answered: Seconding the ‘smile when you talk on the phone’ tip! I used to answer the phone at work that way and people could *hear* the rays of sun :D
  8. teresawu posted this