For many teens, talking on the telephone is a bit out of their comfort zone. As we discussed in our blog post Phone Etiquette – Don’t Play the Telephone Game, often teens and young adults would rather communicate via text or over social media. However, in today’s busy world and demanding schedules, telephone interviews are quite common in the business world. Many of our InternBoston students had telephone interviews with prospective mentoring organizations and discovered the importance of being prepared.
“I was nervous that I would be too nervous to answer questions in detail. Making notes ahead of time was definitely worth it!” InternBoston Hospitality Intern – Summer 2015
“I am a straight-A student and a really good writer, but I feel awkward when I have to talk about myself. I was glad I practiced my interview before I had to talk to my mentor on the phone. It ended up being easier than I thought it would be.” InternBoston Research Intern – Summer 2015
We’ve put together a list of helpful tips to help you prepare for—and excel at— your next phone interview.
Get Organized. Get a folder or notebook that contains all the information having to do with the interview. Plan to ‘bring’ it with you to the phone interview.
Set the Date and Time: First, find out how much time you will need to be on the phone. Will you need 30 minutes or an hour? Once you agree on a date and time, write it down. Set a reminder in your phone. Clarify details such as whether you or the interviewer will initiate the call. Be ready to go 15 minutes ahead of the call time to gather your thoughts and organize yourself.
Backup Contact Information. Be sure to have the interviewer’s telephone number and at least one other way of getting in touch such as an email or an alternate phone number. That way, if there’s a problem (schedule change or technical mishap), you are able to contact your interviewer. This is also handy in case of a dropped call during the interview.
Dress the Part. Yes, dress professionally for your phone interview! You may think feeling comfortable in yoga pants or pajamas will make you more comfortable on the phone. Not necessarily. While it’s true the interviewer can’t see you, by dressing professionally you look the part and thus feel the part. Your professionalism will shine through.
Have Your Information Handy. Gather hard copies of all your credentials (such as your resume, schedule, or school transcript) and have it in front of you during the call. The interviewer may have information about you and ask you questions. When you have the same information in front of you, you are less likely to make mistakes.
Research the Company. Research and collect information about the job/internship/company. Have hard copies in front of you for reference. Write down any questions you might have.
Find an Interview Location. It’s important that you locate a quiet place (in a distraction-free zone) with good reception. Interviewing from Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts may have noisy patrons that can be heard in the background. You might want to make a test call ahead of time to a friend to test for phone clarity.
Practice answering questions. Research possible interview questions you might be asked. Take any notes you think will be helpful. Practice by answering the questions aloud to yourself or with another person. Remember to speak clearly. Don’t mumble or speak too softly.
Put a smile in your voice. When you are face to face with someone, smiling, hand gestures, and eye contact help convey what you are saying. That is harder to detect over the phone. During a phone interview, it’s important that you convey that enthusiasm with your voice. Sit up straight – or stand will help you sound more alert. Do the best you can to convey interest, energy, and enthusiasm.
Listen! Really listen. What if you can’t hear or understand the interviewer’s question? Don’t panic (and don’t pretend you did)! Politely ask the interviewer to repeat the question or statement. You might say something like, “I apologize, but I didn’t hear your question. Could you please repeat it?”
Don’t Choke. Sometimes the nerves can get the better of you. That can make your palms sweaty or your throat feel dry. Have water nearby—your voice is an important tool during a phone interview. If you need water, sip slowly and don’t gulp!
Mind Your Manners. Don’t chew gum. Avoid noisy, nervous habits (pencil tapping or knuckle cracking). Don’t text, check email, or surf the internet while on the phone (yes, the interviewer will hear the click of the keyboard). Use the interviewer’s name. Thank the interviewer for his or her time.
Your best defense is a good offense – plan in advance and you should ace the phone interview and be able to take it to the next level!