Interview, Job search

The Secret Ingredient for a Fantastic Phone Interview

Many job seekers spend time perfecting in-person interview skills, and yet so often you must ace your phone interview before being invited onsite.  Phone interviews are difficult because you don’t see the recruiter, and the visual cues that drive the energy level up are missing.

What creates a fantastic phone interview?  Passion.  I don’t mean romantic passion.  As the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, “An intense desire or enthusiasm for something.”  While most recruiters don’t have this on their list to evaluate, I can tell you after 25 years of recruiting that the candidates who are most likely to be invited for an onsite visit are the ones who demonstrate passion for their work, and who seem happy on the phone.

Amping up Your Energy

In the absence of the eye contact and body language that draws two people together, how can you show your passion for your work?  Below are some tips.

  • If you don’t have a face to connect with, put a photo nearby that you can “talk” to. Be sure to select a photo that isn’t distracting or makes you feel conflicted.  If you had a fight with your spouse this morning, maybe select another photo to use.
  • If you are “talking” to a photo, put it high enough so your head is raised when you look at it, don’t look down.
  • Stand up if possible, look up, or at least hold your head level like the gentleman in the article photo, who is rocking his phone interview! If it doesn’t make you nervous, pace a little when you speak, but don’t get winded.  All of this adds strength to the tone in your voice.  The worst possible scenario is to sit in a chair and slouch.
  • What are you passionate about? What makes you smile whenever you think about it?  Make sure those things are around you.  Do you do Spartan races?  Have medals nearby.  Love your garden?  Pick a window that allows you to see it during the interview.  Love quilting?  Pick your favorite quilt and have it where you can see it and touch it if you want.  Stay away from emotionally-charged items that could be distracting.  Smiling while you are speaking changes your tone of voice.  People can hear a difference when you are smiling.
  • Speaking of distracting…I know you love your dogs, but they should be out of the room, and out of earshot. Murphy’s Law guarantees you are going to have a package delivery during this call, so make sure you are somewhere that the recruiter cannot hear the dogs barking.

Not Too Much, Not Too Little…Getting Passion Just Right

Now you have the foundation to speak with strength and optimism, with a smile on your face.  What else should you do to prepare for a great discussion?

  • Prior to the interview, review the job description and determine what skills YOU would be screening for in this meeting if you were the recruiter, then develop succinct answers. Show your enthusiasm, but synthesize your comments.
  • Be prepared with a great “walk me through your resume” overview. In a previous blog, I outline a process to create this.
  • In the same article I address how to avoid oversharing – –which is much easier to do in phone interviews. Candidates rush to fill silence, sometimes with too much information.  Fight the urge to keep talking.  The recruiter is probably taking notes if they are silent.  If they don’t say anything, pause a moment, then ask, “Did that answer your question?”

I have always gone into interviews knowing I was talking about something I love, and hoping the person on the other end of the line would appreciate my passion, and hopefully share it.  If the worst thing that happened was that I had an enjoyable conversation, that was fine.  My lesson here? Put the outcome out of mind for the conversation and concentrate on talking about what you love.

What If Passion Took A Hike?

What if you don’t love what you do?  It is hard to seem passionate when you feel you are locked in a career that doesn’t suit you.  Below are suggestions that may be helpful.

  • Look for roles that offer upward or lateral mobility into other areas. Don’t settle for something where you will continue to be stuck in a role you dislike.
  • Until you can move into another role, think about what elements of your job do make you happy. Maybe you dislike the work, but you like the people and the sense of teamwork.  Perhaps your job offers good work/life balance, or benefits that really help your family and give you peace of mind.  Focus on the elements that have made you happy in the past, even jot them down so they are in front of you, making you smile.
  • Once you land in your role, focus your energy on what makes you happy so that when the opportunity arises for a move, you are considered an excellent, happy, productive member of the team.
  • What if you just don’t know what will make you happy? You have resources!  There are many books that can help you determine your strengths.  Maybe your employer offers development tools.  Do your research, then volunteer for projects that will allow you to build on these strengths, whether that is at work or in your community.  Switching careers isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.  Build your resume demonstrating these skills, show that you are knowledgeable, and network with people who will advocate for you.

In Conclusion

Early on in my career as a recruiter, I spoke with an older family member who had hired many people in his company.  He said, “Oh, you’re a recruiter.  Hiring people is easy.”  While I was thinking, “Way to marginalize my job,” I pushed away that thought and asked him why he felt that way.  He said, “I hire happy people.  I can train people to do a lot of things, but you can’t teach someone to be happy.  They either are, or they aren’t.”  Your level of happiness is a reflection of your passion for your work, and your life.

Phone interviews are the most difficult time to demonstrate a happy demeanor because of the lack of visual feedback.  Take some time to prepare the correct setting, then let your passion shine through!

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