The advantages you can leverage through a freshly pressed suit, a brilliant Colgate smile or a firm handshake are no longer available. You are now challenged to convey the very same effects via the tone of your voice, content of your speech and the cadence of your answers. No mean feat.
Having the opportunity to carry out a considerable number of tele-interviews over the past few weeks, a number of glaring interview mistakes came to my attention as I attempted to screen for successful candidates. This is my advice…
Loud and clear
Nearly a forgone conclusion, but here we go: speak up! Pronounce your words clearly and speak confidently. The qualities of an impressive candidate must be conveyed through verbal aptitude. If you mess up this first criterion, it will adversely affect the praises detailed in your resume. In the end, the interview is about verifying your lofty claims made out in the CV - unless you speak up, we might never get that far.
Remember your interview appointment
Being greeted by an “erm…who is this again, ah?” response to my introduction is most definitely an impression-breaker. Your aim is to impress us…not to make us cringe.
Grab a quiet corner somewhere
We don’t care where you find it, just do it. I just held an interview this afternoon where the candidate told us that he was not free to take the call at the moment (a scheduled one at that), and suggested we call back later. Upon granting him that grace, he proceeded to conduct the interview whilst taking the time to have casual chats with passing friends or stifle a guffaw at what was perceived to be a joke whispered to him. If the recruiters don’t get to enjoy the joke, it certainly won’t help you.
Have your resume ready
The interviewer will most likely be basing the interview upon your submitted resume, so it would help to have the same materials ready before you for reference should questions be raised about its content. Hesitating or saying, “I don’t think I remember,” is not an option you should use.
When taking the time to think, share it with us
There may come moments of “blank canvas” when you need some time to unearth an appropriate answer from the recesses of your mind. If you were at a physical interview, we would be able to read your body language and understand that you are thinking. When you do the same thing on the other end of a phone line, it just translates into silence … usually a strange atmosphere for the “blind” interviewer. Hence, take the time to share with him/her that you need some time to think about it, so they patiently know what to expect.
Don’t assume anything and no exclamations of “What?!”
Although the advances in telephony have been great, the clarity of a speakerphone can be distorted. When you are unclear of what was said, you should neither pretend you heard the question, nor make reflex exclamations of “ha?” or “what?” This certainly jolted me at a recent interview and made a very bad impression on the professional etiquette of the candidate. Manners have never been more important than on the telephone. Use them.
Ask intelligent questions
Okay, so this applies whether or not you sit in a physical interview or in the comforts of your own home. Nonetheless, the interviewer will use any opportunity gauge your intelligence, thought process and potential for success. Usually, well thought out questions aimed at the interviewer shows preparation, research, interest in the company and ultimately, a brain. Ask about the company, graduate programmes, development opportunities, the economic impact on the company etc. Even surprise questions can work to your benefit if they display intelligent inquisitiveness. I was asked today why the company was hiring external consultants to conduct the screening interviews. That question threw me, but we liked being thrown.
Always bow out gracefully
With no eye contact and a good grip to seal the end of the interview, your last impression will hinge upon the end of the phone call. Be courteous, thank the interviewers and express your gratitude for the opportunity.
Although not entirely common, the tele-interview may occur especially if you are applying for a position in another city or country. In some ways, it is less nerve wracking than the physical event, but its importance to your application is not diminished by any degree. Make the effort … even if you are sitting there in your pajamas. Ultimately, the interviewers want to grab you as much as you want to convince them. So, help them and you help yourself.
by Koon Mei Ching