Phone interviews are as important as in-person appointments; here’s how to be prepared.
By Rick Fromme
|An early 20th century candlestick phone being used for a phone call. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Just as in-person interviewing is a craft and skill that would-be applicants can hone, so too is the ability to conduct a compelling telephone interview. Unlike being in-person interview, a telephone interview – without video conferencing – doesn’t allow you to read an interviewer’s facial expression or body language, which it can help both candidates and interviewers better understand each other. But a well-prepared candidate can make a positively indelible impression over the phone as well as face-to-face. Says American entrepreneur, author, and humanitarian activist, Dan Pallota, “… Open yourself up to the possibility a phone call offers. Discover this remarkable device called the telephone. It will give you a serious competitive edge.”
It’s important to regard the telephone interview as crucially as an in-person meeting. Often, a medical sales company or major medical facility has numerous candidates across the nation or a region vying for the same position. Conducting phone interviews with the top tier of candidates allows decision makers to cull the field down to its final few, and then invite its top choices for an in-person interview, thus saving time and money on travel expenses. If a candidate passes muster during the phone interview, it also facilitates setting up meetings with multiple decision makers that may need to meet individually with a promising candidate – hopefully you -- while she or he is on site.
What’s On First?
At the outset, ask the interviewer how much time the interview should take. This will help you pace the conversation, and ensure you’ve covered your talking points during the conversation.
Also at the beginning of the conversation, show you’ve done your homework, but also seek out more information about the position. You might say something like, “I’ve read the position description, but I’d like to hear in your words what you’re [or, what the company is] looking for in an ideal candidate.” Though most phone interviewers have a set roster questions they intend to ask, they won’t be looking askance at this question, if it’s worded correctly and expressed with sincerity.
|Google Calendar 2006-11-26 (Photo credit: Arthaey)|
If the call arrives unexpectedly, politely request a time in the near future to reschedule. You never want to be caught unprepared for this all-important conversation. You won’t sound disinterested, but concerned about being prepared and ready for the interview. While this brief conversation isn’t an interview per se, the caller is still evaluating your sense of professionalism and your communication skills.
Ensure you have created a quiet environment for your interview. This means dealing with any possible distractions in advance such as family members, pets, neighbors or even other phone calls coming into your call waiting queue. Not only will it be distractive, making you more nervous and less able to focus, but it also sends and unintentional message to the interviewer you’re not serious about the interview process and the job itself. Unless you know it’s an absolute emergency, don’t answer your call waiting queue.
Unless you’re skilled at communicating professionally over the phone, some career search specialists advise you to dress for success, even if you’re interviewing in the privacy of your own home. Donning your best interviewing attire helps put you in a business mindset and increase your confidence. Your entire demeanor — including your intonation, the verbiage you choose, and attitude you exude — will be positively affected. Of course, if using any type of video conferencing, you want to dress in conservative business attire.
Another good practice is to shoot a test video of yourself in advance of your appointment time. This will allow you to playback the video to ensure the lighting is sufficient and that any items that might appear on-camera in the background aren’t in any way distracting or be perceived as possibly offensive.
|My Reference Files (Photo credit: Tim Morgan)|
At hand should be your résumé, your brag book with Condition/Action/Benefit vignettes. Los Angeles executive and career coach David Couper, author of “Outsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career … Even When You Don’t Fit In!” recommends having a written list of five to ten short vignettes about yourself that illustrate your accomplishments. “If you say you managed a department with five people, you need to have a story about that,” Couper, who used to work in human resources at now-defunct consulting giant, Arthur Andersen says. Additionally, you should also have a list of professional and civic awards, the cover letter you may have previously sent, a list of professional testimonials that others have written about you if you’ve received them; the job description, questions you’ve prepared to ask, and any other pertinent information (the research you’ve done about the company, etc.). Let’s face it: interviewing can be somewhat disquieting if not extremely distressing. Having the above mentioned documents at the ready helps you recall — and importantly to recount — critical information and helps you stay focused.
Some pundits recommend standing up and walking around in the workplace you’ve created for conducting the interview. Doing so, they say, gives off a confident and energetic vibe. The one caveat is if you’re using a cell phone, moving around, even a couple of feet away from your desk, may cause a very embarrassing loss of signal or drop out. It's been known to happen. Just don't let it occur during your interview.
|English: Charger connectors of different mobile phones (from the left: Samsung E900, Motorola V3, Nokia 6101, Sony Ericsson K750)Motorola V3, Nokia 6101及 Sony Ericsson K750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
One way to prevent this is if you still have a land line, use that for your interview. Many also recommend telling the interviewer at the outset you’re on a cell phone in case the signal drops out or if the connection is altogether lost, it’s not totally unexpected. No matter what type of phone you’re using, ensure it’s fully charged or the battery has plenty of juice.
#E.T., Phone Home (Extra Tips for Your Phone @ Home)
Make certain you have the correct date and time for your appointment. Especially if the company or recruiter is located in another time zone, adjust your calendar accordingly so you’ll be punctual. This may mean having to get up early or work late to accommodate for East and West coast time differences, but do what you have to be on point at the allotted time.
|English: "E.T Phonehome" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Ensure your phone’s outgoing greeting is professional sounding. Sure, having funny messages is great for your personal network — and there are some hilarious ones out there — but if you’re at all in the job hunt mode, re-record a more professional sounding one until you land a new position.
If another person is answering your phone, remind them to take a detailed message that includes the caller’s name, company, date, and why they’re calling. If you have little children at home, especially during business hours, it’s probably best not to have them answer incoming calls.
Smile. It will improve your attitude and your enthusiasm will enhance the tone of your voice. Remember, the interviewer can’t see you, so like a great narrator of an audiobook or radio announcer, you’ll have to solely use your voice to portray your confidence and acumen. Some professional phone sales representatives have been known to hang mirrors at their workstations to periodically check to see they’re maintaining a facial expression that’s positive and upbeat when they’re on the phone.
Use the same etiquette as an in-person interview. Be certain to thank the interviewer for his or her time and express that you’re looking forward to that next round, in-person meeting. You may also want to inquire what will be the next step in the interview/evaluation process.
“A well-prepared candidate can make a positively indelible
impression over the phone as well as face-to-face.”
impression over the phone as well as face-to-face.”
Listen attentively. Remember interviews are conversations, not interrogations. Take note of the questions the interviewer asks. These will become helpful when writing a compelling thank-you note after concluding the interview.
Have a glass of water handy, but not too near important documents where normal interview jitters may cause
you to inadvertently spill it. Closed containers are best.
If you’re interviewing with several different people simultaneously, try to find out their names, titles and brief job functions in advance.
Don’t talk too much. “We have two ears and one mouth. Many people act as if it was the opposite,” Dr. Stephen Covey sagaciously quips. Watch the clock and don’t talk for more than one minute or 90 seconds at one stretch. Then pause at ask if more details would be useful.
Consider practicing phone interviews in advance with friends or family members. If you have the ability to record the conversation, do so. There’s nothing more telling than listening to a playback of your mock interview.
|Big Mouth (Photo credit: UpChuck_Norris)|
Rick Fromme combines entrepreneurial enthusiasm with an insider's knowledge of the medical industry to co-found MedMasters.com. Both his drive and perspective helps provide health care professionals with a superior mechanism with which to communicate, network and market their strengths. Prior to founding MedMasters.com, Rick operated a highly successful medical device distributorship. Other milestones in his 12-year career in the medical industry include a key position at a medical device start-up company that was later sold to the Ethicon Endo division of Johnson & Johnson. You may also reach Rick by connecting with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube.