EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

If going on an interview wasn’t stressful enough, having a telephone interview is even worse.

More and more these days, companies are doing a telephone screening of candidates before they go to the time and expense of having someone come into the office. The good news is your resume has been pulled from the hundreds submitted. The bad news is, you are about to be ambushed.

When I have a client who wants to do an initial telephone screen, I usually insist on contacting our candidates before they call. The simple reason is that many candidates list their cell phone on their resume as a primary point of contact. So, visualize this. You are driving down the road in heavy traffic and your phone rings. The number isn’t familiar, but you were expecting a call so you pick it up. The company representative starts talking, completely forgetting that the position in question wasn’t actually posted under their firm’s name. And, I know this probably has never happened to you, but you answered ads for more than a few OTHER jobs in the last piece of time.

So, there you are. You don’t know who these people are. You don’t know anything about their company or the job in question. (For some reason you can’t Google them while you are driving.) And, did I mention that you don’t have a great connection? You end up sounding stupid and that impression will be a lasting one. Don’t allow yourself to be interviewed while you are driving. It is perfectly acceptable to say you are in heavy traffic and can’t afford to be distracted.

Figure out a time when you will be at a land line AND an Internet connection and then give yourself at least another hour to do some research on the company. And, beg off without missing a beat. If you don’t have the job description with you, either ask for them to email it to you, or delay your conversation until you do have it in front of you. Another good suggestion is to ask the person who has called you to send you an email with their FULL business card information. They have your resume, so they must have your email address. There is no reason why you should have to take notes while you are driving. In this way, you can Google them as well.

A civilized telephone interview should take place where there are no distractions. If you are working from home, make sure the dog is outside and that there are no children running in and out. While you may not have a REAL office at home, everyone in the world of work assumes you do.

The best phone set up is a hands free phone headset. I use one most of the time. It allows me to get up from my desk if I have to get files, and to take notes. It is a good idea to have your resume and the job description in front of you for reference. If you feel like it, you can even get up and walk around.

Talk like you are sitting across from someone, just like a real interview. Sit up straight. If you have a picture on your desk, that can help to visualize a face. I have also heard some people recommend a mirror so you can see your own face. Try a few things before hand to see how they feel.

When talking on the phone, be aware that you lack the visual cues that are so helpful in an in person interview. The most important one is when to shut up. To compensate for that issue, make sure all your answers are less than 90 seconds. Old phone technology was analog. The new phone technology is digital. If you don’t pause from time to time, there is no way for the person on the other end of the phone to interrupt you.

Your purpose in agreeing to a telephone interview is to get an in person interview. YOU are a product that honestly can’t be sold over the phone. At the right time, do a “trial close” and see if you can stop the conversation and get an appointment.

Here is another opportunity for everyone to share their knowledge and experience. If you have some suggestions about how to handle telephone interviews, please send them to Leads@TheFENG.org and we will publish them in our Notes from Members section.

Telephone interviews can be real losers. Avoid them if you can. If you can’t, at least be content that they aren’t as bad as a root canal. And, you have a shot at a job!

Regards, Matt

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