Q. Do you have tips for phone interviews? Also, which time slot in an interviewing cycle is the best?
A. As the cost of travel and the demand for brevity increase, more initial screening is being completed by phone. In the interest of efficiency, many first interviews and even follow-up conversations are done over the phone, through Skype and by way of other virtual meeting techniques.
So how do you stand out if the interviewer has only your voice to judge? First, begin by looking at the bright side – outfit choice, eye contact, hand shaking, traffic, parking – all the idiosyncrasies of interviewing, are no longer an issue. The phone eliminates many of the stressful, physical requirements of the interview process and allows you and the interviewer to focus on your words alone.
Interestingly, there have been many studies done on how people are perceived by voice alone - and content is not the main factor that is evaluated. The tone and pace of your voice are what will set you apart. As silly as it may sound, you will want to practice with both of these prior to your interview. Similarly, where you hold the phone affects how you will sound. Practice with a friend to see how close the phone should be to your face, or decide if headphones work better for you as they allow your hands to be free.
Then, get dressed! Don’t participate in the phone interview in your pajamas – getting dressed will make you feel more confident and thus sound more confident. Some Professional Communicators believe standing makes all the difference. Stand over a desk where you have already prepared your notes, resume, list of questions, eyeglasses, and anything else that you might need. Standing will allow you to breathe more deeply and sound better. However, keep in mind that standing means standing still, not walking around. If you are pacing your home office, opening cabinets, or shuffling papers while interviewing you may run the risk of being heard through the phone by your interviewer - so stay put.
Also, though phone interviews are done in the interest of time, do not feel rushed. Take your time and actively listen as if the person were sitting directly in front of you. Lastly, make sure you smile! Smiles can be heard through the phone. You still need to develop a relationship, even if you don't meet face-to-face.
To the question about interview time slot: if you have a choice on the interview slot, review when you are at your best. Are you a morning person? Go for it and hope the interviewer will be awake too. A night owl should close out the business day and showcase the high energy they still have. Stay away from before or after lunch - the interviewer might be hungry or drowsy, and you won't have their focus.
In any interview the goal is to express your qualifications and personality. In a phone interview, don’t forget to be charming and interesting as well as informative. Though the phone interview process is awkward, use this as an opportunity to showcase your ability to adapt.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.