Thursday, April 30, 2015

Interviewing Excellence: Cracking the Telephonic Interview!

Couple of weeks back, my husband told me that he had some job interviews lined up for the coming week. All were telephonic to start with and that is what gave him slight jitters. Not that he has not appeared for such first rounds; but, a telephonic discussion can always have a chill run down one’s spine. You can’t see the expressions of the interviewer; at times you don’t even know if there is anyone on the other side (thanks to the dead air), the attention span of the interviewer is short-lived, etc… Yes I agree that there are many pros to it as well, like you can have your resume in front of you as a quick reference guide and Walaah…! You can always access Google that gives you answers to all questions and no one will even know about it.

Having said this, it is extremely crucial for one to clear the first step in order to move to the next. Let’s see what could be the different challenges that one faces while appearing for a telephonic interview:
  1. Reduction of visual cues: The interviewee cannot see the interviewer and hence it becomes challenging to understand his body language, level of interest towards your answers and whether he is making notes as you answer his questions. These visual cues help the interviewee interpret how to respond appropriately and as desired. It also becomes difficult to demonstrate your interpersonal skills. All you have as strength here is your tonal quality, clarity of voice and the right intonation, so use it well.
  2. Logging into a bridge: With technology expanding every minute, the use of telecom in communication has become widespread. Since more than the last decade, Human Resources prefers to send you telephonic bridge details of the interview which is to be facilitated inter-geographical boundaries. If one is not well versed with these technicalities, he may get thoroughly confused at the last minute…leading to an unconscious press of the anxiety / panic button. Fear not, the solution is to try dialing into these bridge details at least 30 min before your call. In case of confusion, connect with the human resources person in advance, so that he helps you out.  
  3. Accent Issues: Well, this could be a tough one! Asking the interviewer to repeat each time can be stressful not only for the interviewer but a lot more for you and could be instantaneously terrorizing. The best way to combat this is to do your WiKi homework on the interviewer. This way, you will get some time to prepare yourself on dealing with the foreign accent. Also, listen when the interviewer speaks…do not interrupt. In case of confusion, check for understanding. If you still don’t follow, there is no harm in politely letting him know that he should speak slowly in order for you to reply in the most optimal way.
  4. Beware of Surprises: At times we find ourselves in a situation where the interview call has landed on our mobile device prior to the scheduled time. Oops! That could get challenging enough, especially if you are in the middle of your current organizations meeting (how do you suddenly excuse yourself from your manager) or stuck in traffic and have not reached home or you have vegetable vendors in your locality, or barking dogs or blaring car horns… Well, smile now, coz what you should do, is shut yourself from any kind of noise at least 30 min before the scheduled time of your interview. Do not plan anything at that time. Use that time to prepare yourself mentally.

These were some of the challenges that we face during our first interview round telephonically. Let me offer some more tips and tricks to you which have been practically demonstrated and have led to winning results…oh yes, my husband and few others who used these tips cracked their telephonic interviews like a piece of cake (of course your content knowledge and subject matter expertise should be great as well J)
  1. Take the name and other relevant details of the interviewer from the Human Resources department that contacted you. Research him out on social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and don’t miss Google. This will give you enough information about him – his work experience, the organizations he has worked with, if there is any common LinkedIn connection, awards & recognitions and his social behavior patterns.
  2. Use a landline phone if possible as mobile networks can be less reliable. If there is no option, ensure that your mobile device is well charged and has complete connectivity.
  3. If possible, use headphones while speaking. This way, you can be more expressive since you will be able to make those hand gestures to yourself.
  4. Take advantage of the invisibility factor. Phone interviews are like an “open-book test’. You know what I mean ;)
  5. Keep a pen and paper handy to make notes on any relevant points that are discussed.
  6. If you are nervous, wash your face with cold water (the one from the tap and not refrigerator). This will cool you down to a large extent. Release yourself if needed.
  7. Prepare a list of questions that you may want to ask the interviewer. It shows that you are serious about your candidature.
  8. Do a telephonic dry run of the interview with a friend / partner (whoever). Better still, record this conversation. Take feedback on how you sound on the phone. You will get answers to questions like: Should your voice be modulated to sound more professional? Are you speaking too fast / slow? Do you sound nervous? Are you being able to project your personality the way you want it to?
  9. Practice answers to anticipated questions. Prepare keywords for responses to questions. Have a summary of the concepts in front of you.
  10. Do not eat anything or chew gum during the interview.
  11. When a question is asked, don’t jump to the answer. Take 2 seconds to frame your thoughts and then respond in a poised way. Speak slowly and clearly.
  12. Address the interviewer by his name at least twice during the interview…it personalizes the conversation.
  13. Confirm the appropriateness of what you are saying or clarify points of confusion. Remember you cannot see any nods or quizzical faces on the other side, so don’t assume. Ask questions like, “Would you like me to elaborate? “Have I given you enough information?”
  14. Smile while answering. A smile can always be felt on the phone.
  15. Towards the end, feel free to ask the interviewer on what could be the possible next steps.
  16. Finally, thank the caller for his time and subtly communicate your interest in the opportunity. If possible, send the interviewer a thank you note.
Wow! These tips should do the trick for you. So go ahead and take that interview call boldly and confidently. All the Best!


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