Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Surviving a telephone interview

Personally, I feel that anyone who does proper preparation for a regular F2F interview will be prepared for a telephone interview. There is no secret to surviving the phone interview: there won't be any less or more BDI questions, because these are still dictated by the whims of the interviewer, or the stage of the interviewing process; there will be silences, but there will be silences in any interview or forced conversation; technical glitches, like dropped calls or hissing speaker phones; no body language, but then again, many people deceive themselves into thinking they are adept readers of body language when really they are so clueless we wonder if they have a body. Yes, you can show up for this interview in your pajamas, but if they ask if you would enable your web camera, you're screwed.

Here is the number one difference between F2F interviews and telephone interviews: you control the environment. Normally, the interviewer controls the environment: the room is quiet, the door closes, there are limited distractions and usually no interruptions. They know what to expect and so do you, in their little interview cocoon. Telephone interviews usually go awry because they aren't under the environmental control of the interviewer.

The candidate has spent so much time memorizing their 30 second pitch for tell me about yourself, and how time saving it will be to wear pajamas, that they have not thought very much about their environment. Where are the kids, the dogs, when will people arrive home, can they be told to shush up without you losing your concentration or temper? We forget about our environment because we are so accustomed to it, turning the volume up and down in our heads as we need to pay attention. We forget what it is like to be strangers in our own house.

You should also check your phone. Have you called someone and asked, what can you hear in the background? If they answer, nothing, but you breathing like a psycho killer, you might want to think about replacing your phone because it is a little too sensitive. Unless you really do sound like you're auditioning for When a Stranger Calls.

When I graduated from library school, I had several phone interviews, and most went well because I was prepped. The interview I blew, unfortunately for a job I really wanted, happened when I was 2 minutes into the interview and my dogs started howling like they were out on the moors hunting for postman flesh to devour. I managed to get them to shush (away from the phone, thank god, I know some words that sailors don't, cuz I'm an over-educated person) but I just couldn't get it back together when I returned to the phone. I just kept thinking, will it happen again?

So, the best way to survive a phone interview? Do all of your preparation, as usual, and take control of the interview environment.

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