Phone Interview Horror Story: Learn from my mistakes

Once I scheduled a phone interview while I was babysitting my eight and five year old cousins.  My reason for the timing?  “These kids are always perfectly well behaved.  I’ll just have them play in their rooms while I’m on the phone.  What could go wrong?”   About 15 minutes before the interview, I told the kids to behave and that if they were good they could have sweets after I was finished.  They were to eat their lunch, and play quietly together afterwards.

I made their lunch, served it, and my phone rang.  As I began to say hello, Emma screamed bloody murder because her little brother, Davis, had pinched her; then she hit him back.  I apologized to the interviewer, asked for a moment to put them in their rooms for time out.  When I tried to resume the interview, I was caught off guard with a lot of the questions.  The kids had worked me up, and I was off my game, plus I hadn’t realized that a phone interview would be so formal.  Then I heard more screaming and found Emma locked in a closet; she couldn’t get out… Needless to say, I didn’t get the position.

You have no idea, when I look back on that first phone interview I had, how bad I feel for that interviewer.  All she heard was screaming children and unprepared answers.   I had no idea that I should’ve prepared differently for that interview, and I’m not going to let you make the same mistakes I did!  Here’s how you should handle a phone interview.

Do your homework.  Just like any real life interview, you need to research the company and position.  Be able to discuss current events happening within the news and company.  (You can type up a cheat sheet of facts and news to refer to during the interview).  Make sure you understand the position you are applying for; if the job description is vague, try to have questions typed up too.

Practice questions/answers.  Make it doesn’t sound like you’re reading when you talk if you do use a cheat sheet.

Print out the resources you’re going to use.  Your resume and any kind of cheat sheet or question sheet you plan on using during the interview should be printed out so that your interviewer doesn’t hear you constantly typing or clicking.  For all they know, you could be updating your Facebook status.  If you need to, you can have your computer open to the company page, just in case, but try to use it as little as possible.

Dress up, if it helps, to put yourself in a professional mindset.  Not everyone can have the same quality conversation in their pajamas as they can in interview attire.  It’s up to you, but personally, I prefer to wear business casual or professional attire even for phone interviews.

Act natural, like you’re in person.  You may lose body language and facial expressions through a phone interview, but if you normally make tons of gestures or faces while talking and don’t during the interview, your conversation won’t sound natural.  Try talking with a smile on your face versus talking with a straight face.  Hear the difference?  Your smile/expression comes out in your voice.

Take the interview in a place you won’t have distractions.  Learn from my mistakes.  Taking a phone call in a public/noisy place, or where you can’t focus will take a toll on your interview.

LISTEN.  Make sure you understand the question before you answer it.  Also, since you can’t see the interviewer’s body language, leave a beat before you answer any questions so you don’t interrupt them.

Don’t let your phone interview psyche you out.  Prepare, act natural, and let your awesomeness shine, just like you would in a face-to-face interview.  If you do well, you may even proceed to the next step in the hiring process or get offered a job!  Good luck, I know you can do it!

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