How can I impress during my phone interview?
February 6, 2006 7:51 AM   Subscribe

How can I impress my future (hopefully!) boss during my phone interview?

I have a telephone interview forthcoming on Wednesday. My boss is looking for someone assertive and self-motivated. Does anyone have any tips or resources for how best to conduct this type of interview?
posted by raddevon to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When you don't know something, admit it cheerfully.
posted by orthogonality at 7:54 AM on February 6, 2006

While you're talking, give a big smile. You'll feel like an idiot, but it will make you sound more cheerful on the phone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:04 AM on February 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

I always make a list of notes of things that I think make me sound impressive to a potential employer - bullet points that I want to be sure to work in. While I'm being asked a question, I'll look over my "cheat sheet" and think about how best to work those points into an answer - but of course being careful to not sound like I'm reading a canned answer off of a cue card.

I find that phone interviews are extremely nerve-wracking, since I can't really read the body language of the person I'm speaking with, so my mind has a tendency to go blank when I'm asked a question.

I also will (I know this sounds terribly cheesy) sort of rehearse answers to questions I think they're likely to ask me, things like "tell me a little bit about your professional history" or "tell me why you think you'd be good for this job." I might write some of that down as well.

Finally, I'd make sure to drink some water and warm my voice up a bit, if I were home alone and hadn't spoken to anybody in a while. If I were taking a phone interview during my regular workday, I'd be sure to get out of the office a good fifteen minutes early, and drive to someplace quiet where I had good cell reception.

The real thing to keep in mind, no matter what, is to sound as upbeat as possible. You should come off as enthusiastic, confident but not cocky, likeable and capable. These are all often easier to get through in person. Look at yourself in the mirror when you're talking - your eyebrows should be up and your eyes should be bright when you're explaining why someone wants to hire you.

Wow. I sound really anal and insane, don't I? But, I always ace interviews. Heh.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:05 AM on February 6, 2006

All I can tell you is this: If you think you need a second or two to think about a question, which is common in face to face interviews, tell him so. Your pensive look will not come through on the phone.
posted by jon_kill at 8:30 AM on February 6, 2006

Phone interviews are actually easier than live-body interviews imo. True you don't see body language, but you still hear the tone of the interviewer's voice and the drift of the questions. What you do have going in a phone interview is you have more control over your physical surroundings, you can as pazaz said have notes to look over.

One note of caution on the upbeat tone. Yes, it's good to be upbeat but be genuinely upbeat not weirdly so. I've interviewed some people who seem too anxious to please and it's not good.

Focus on what your research has told you they're looking for. Focus on what you've done, your past accomplishments and what you can do for a prospective employer. Practice talking about this so it comes out coherently. Do not use buzzwords unnecessarily.

You said your boss is looking for someone assertive and self-motivated. List three examples of how you were assertive and self-motivated in the past because he/she will be asking about this.

Good luck
posted by storybored at 8:51 AM on February 6, 2006

I stood up during the phone interviews I did with success.

Second on the smile...
posted by UncleHornHead at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2006

if at all possible don't use a cell phone
posted by iurodivii at 9:13 AM on February 6, 2006

Pay attention to wordlets like "Yeah", "Uh-huh", "Nuh-uh", etc. Then don't use them.

Maybe, in preparation, have a friend give you a phone interview? And tape the call and listen to it later; same principle as having a career counselor videotape you.

Sometimes I find it helps if I dress up in a suit even for the phone interview. I know, it sounds silly, but it says, "You're being professional now." And I always keep my resume and the cover letter in front of me, so I can refer to them if the interviewer does; next to/on them I keep a list of other accomplishments or achievements or points of interest. I tend to get nervous and forget stuff that would be highly pertinent to answering a question, so I write it all down beforehand so I can just scan down and remind myself.

Good luck!
posted by fuzzbean at 9:34 AM on February 6, 2006

This has worked for me nearly every time (copywriter/illustrator work). If appopriate for the job type, offer to e-mail some sort of sample of your work to the prospective employer. I have found that talk is cheap. A sample can show your functional and technical capabilities. And of course its proactive.
posted by punkfloyd at 9:48 AM on February 6, 2006

I do a number of interviews and recently I had the most impressive interview ever. The person conveyed an absolute love for all aspects of the job (medicine). Within the structure of the interview, the person jumped between talking about recent topics in the news about the profession, guilty pleasures in television drama (although House should not be a guilty pleasure), particulars about her recent experiences.

Enthusiasm, but focussed enthusiasm.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:04 AM on February 6, 2006

If you can, get a really old phone, one with an actual bell in it. The microphones in those are way better than any phone made in the past couple of decades. You will sound much better than the other applicants, which might be the edge that you need.

(On an unrelated topic, this goes doubly with on-air interviews with radio or TV stations. Always use an old phone with an awesome mic.)
posted by waldo at 10:11 AM on February 6, 2006

I know it's a no-brainer, but do not answer any other calls or put him on hold for any reason.

I wouldn't even bother to bring it up, except that some people really just don't think about it very hard. I am always shocked at work when my boss puts important calls (such as reporters interviewing him) on hold just so he can see who else is calling him; all his friends hate his phone etiquette but none are brave enough to tell him so.

So anyhow, worth mentioning, if a little obvious.
posted by hermitosis at 12:03 PM on February 6, 2006

Wear your nicest suit and stand up during the interview.
posted by springload at 12:31 PM on February 6, 2006

Have anecdotes ready that display your assertiveness and self-motivation, and then have examples ready of how you would implement those skills in their organisation. (i.e. "When I was at ABC Co., I realised there was a problem with their current TPS Report Confabulator system, so I went ahead and negotiated a deal with the supplier for a setup that increased our productivity by 34 %. I've read in Confabulator Today Magazine that your company excels in operational strategy but has admitted there are problems in the area of implementation - I'm excited to perhaps have the opportunity to come in and examine that situation and do some troubleshooting for you, like I did at ABC."
posted by Kololo at 3:13 PM on February 6, 2006

I landed my most recent job after two very good phone interviews. The main thing I'd add that isn't here already (lots of good points up there) is listen to what they're telling you and use that information to ask intelligent questions.

You can't easily show them you're listening, and making uh-huh noises while they talk only goes so far (too much is intrusive), so show you were listening and thinking about what they were saying by coming back with something about it. Questions are good because they show you're thinking. You don't need to do this all the way through, but there should be one or two places where you can work it into the conversation. Done right this can also be used to show you have the background and knowledge necessary to put their information into some kind of perspective (but also don't be afraid to ask something fairly obvious, since it still shows you're thinking and paying attention).

People like being listened too, it makes them feel good. By making an extra attempt towards good communication with the interviewer you can establish a rapport with them, something that can otherwise be difficult without body language etc. Make them feel interesting as well as make them interested in you.

Obviously you also need to give good answers to their questions, but I assume you've figured that bit out :D
posted by shelleycat at 9:17 PM on February 6, 2006

UncleHornHead and springload have a good suggestion. Standing during the interview forces you to have good posture so your voice sounds better.

Make sure there isn't any distracting ambient noise in the background.

If there is a committee interviewing you, write down their names and job titles as they are introduced. It's much easier to refer back to what you have written than to try to remember everyone's information.

Good luck!
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2006

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