Recently, I wrote a post highlighting some do's and don'ts with regard to resume writing. I would be quite irresponsible if I didn't also give some advice concerning telephone interviews. On the surface, a telephone interview is easier than a formal face-to-face meeting with a hiring manager. You need not shower for a telephone interview, and you may do the interview from the comfort of your favorite chair. That's where the simplicity ends.
Telephone screens are difficult for the candidate for one huge reason--the candidate can't see the face of the interviewer. Most people who do face-to-face interviews with me have a vague idea of how the interview is going because of the expressions on my face. Let's put it this way: when I was a kid, my mother once slapped me in the face when I was walking past her down the hall. When I started crying and told her I hadn't said anything, she told me, "You didn't need to. It was the look on your face that I was slapping off." This explains why I suck at poker.
When a face-to-face interview is going well, I am like the candidate's long-lost cousin. When it isn't going well, I first start to squint my eyes with my mouth slightly open (hopefully not drooling) and then I start to really take my time writing notes and thinking of questions to ask. This is because I have made my decision within the first 30 seconds of meeting the candidate and I am trying to fill some time instead of having them leave after 4 minutes.
Because a telephone interview can be tricky, I do try to make the person comfortable by engaging them in more chit-chat than I normally would in a face-to-face. This is important because there is a greater risk of something unexpected happening like a crying baby, a ringing doorbell or a barking dog. I don't want candidates freaking out over things they can't control. That said, there are a few things that I want to make sure candidates are/aren't doing during the telephone interview.
1. Please don't open up a can of soda and take a huge gulp before answering a question. It's gross and all I can do is imagine how soon the belch will arrive. Then I will get the idea in my head that it isn't a soda, but that it is actually a beer. Then I will be bitter that you are drinking a beer and I'm not. By that time, I will have forgotten what the question was because I will be too busy trying to figure out what kind of beer you drink.
2. Did you know that chewing gum sounds MUCH LOUDER over the phone? Especially when it makes those neat little snapping noises.
3. Turn down the television. Hearing the Magnum PI theme music will only irritate me that I am having to work while you get to be home watching WGN.
4. Stop typing on your keyboard! How in the hell can you concentrate on the questions I'm asking you? Am I that boring? Are you trying to find the answer to, "So tell me about the profitability of your branch in 2006" on Google?
5. Can you please address your nicotine habit AFTER our discussion? Don't you realize I can hear the lighter ignite, and the exhaling?
6. Don't go near a flushing toilet in your house when we are talking on the phone. I will think it is you and will end the call immediately. Only my friends may pee when we talk on the phone.
7. Be on your toes and don't let your guard down for one minute. By being too comfortable in your own home to do a telephone inteview, you run the risk of saying something stupid. And I will be there to hear it. If it's really good, I will write it in quotes and email it to my colleagues. Some recent gems include:
"Well, my boss was a Jew. But he was cool. You know, *laugh* for a Jew." (When asked about his sales goals for his office)
"Damn, I can't remember." (when asked about her financials)
"If you guys end up hiring me, I've got a referral for you. She's really young and pretty. Who couldn't use a pretty blond?"
"Well, I didn't put down that I worked at XYZ Company on my resume because it is a real shit hole."
Call me a Pollyanna, but I would like to think that none of those things would have been said in a face-to-face interview.
I hope this advice will help you to succeed on your next telephone interview!