Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When an interview is a call away
Roopa Hegde

ONE of the hiring trends in vogue is the telephonic interview. Here are some tips to survive these.

Today, you can definitely count on the telephonic interview as one of the screening rounds while conducting your job/internship search. Employers choose telephony for reasons such as distance from the work site or for making first cuts and to determine if they want to arrange a face-to face interview. Telephonic interviews could be awkward, for you can neither see the person interviewing you nor can you be seen. The challenge is to sell your qualifications and experience mainly through words and the tone of your voice.

As 90 per cent of human communication is non-verbal (body language, eye contact, etc), you’re in a sort of limbo while giving a telephonic interview. However, the upside is you can make use of such an arrangement to summarise your achievements and skills with the prepared notes.

An unscheduled call

If an employer calls you up and wants to conduct an interview immediately, you’ll have two options: Either you proceed with the call or politely suggest another time (could be after a few minutes or so). In case you are in a reasonably private environment and have your r`E9sum`E9 ready, probably it’s best to proceed with the call right away. On the other hand, if you’re in a noisy ambience, it’s always good to let the interviewer know that your circumstances aren’t ideal and request for another convenient time.

Scheduled interviews

If you have your time and date scheduled much ahead of time, be at your phone early and ensure you’re available for a longer period of time. At times, the scheduled interview could take more time than you think. Keep a copy of your r`E9sum`E9 along with note cards with information about all employers you’re actively pursuing by the telephone. Keep a notepad and pen to take notes during the conversation.

Do’s and don’ts

Actually, all the usual tips for preparing for and handling interviews hold good here too. In addition, you can try recording your answers to the possible questions. Doing so will allow you pay more attention to what the tone of your voice is communicating. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Politely excuse yourself to turn down loud television/stereo.

  • In case of guests or roommates around, make your way to another room with a telephone extension so you’ll not get distracted.

  • Sit up straight and smile — as the composure comes through even when the caller can’t see you.

  • Do not eat, drink or smoke, for those noises carry over the phone.

  • Many of us inconspicuously adopt a ‘phone posture’ where we slump over and murmur. Ensure that you talk clearly. Standing up also helps as it charges your breathing and tone of voice, making you sound more alert.

  • One advantage of the telephone interview over the personal interview is that it can be treated as an open book test. Have your resume and a list of questions you want to ask ready near the phone. Include points like why hiring you could be beneficial to the company.

  • Don’t get caught off-guard on the usual questions: What’s your greatest weakness? or ‘Tell us about yourself’. Ensure that you have something written down for ‘em too.

  • Answer questions in short sentences. Remember, the only thing the interviewer has to go by is your voice. As short sentences are more readily understood and allow for more interchange between you and the interviewer, you’d want to stick to them. Answer all questions in full without rambling.

  • Restate the question if you’re not sure of the answer (you can’t use this technique too often). Doing so will give you extra time to think over and ensures you avoid long silences. Silences are awkward over the phone — even 10 seconds of silence could seem to drag on forever.

  • Do ask follow-up questions. Your questions should catch their interest and should also aim at keeping the interviewer a little busy! Say, if you’re applying for a sales position come up with queries like: ‘What strategies are under way to increase the sales and morale of the sales department?’

  • Ensure you answer all questions courteously — even slight irritation in your voice is much more obvious over the phone. Try to sound as much as relaxed and enthusiastic as possible.

  • Do end it on a thank you note, expressing your continued interest in the position.

Upon successfully completing the telephonic interview, you may just as well land a chance for an on-site interview. So, make the most of a telephone interview to move successfully ahead in your job-seeking process.