For many roles, the first step of the interview process is conducted by phone or over Skype. Phone interviews have a way of many unnerving candidates, but it’s entirely vital that your candidates are polished, confident, and engaging on the phone to get through to the next round of interviews.
Therefore, if your candidate is nervous, talks too fast, or just fails to make an impact during the phone interview, the hiring manager may discount your great candidate as someone who naturally doesn’t come across well on the phone.
Unfortunately, poor phone interview performance isn’t something that hiring managers in today’s market will look past.
Which is why your candidates can benefit from coaching to ace their telephone interviews. Even people highly comfortable being interviewed over the phone will probably get a few useful tips!
1. If the hiring manager calls unexpectedly…reschedule the call.
If a candidate is even mildly distracted because they’re working on a project, walking home from work on a noisy street, or having to hide in the office hallway, so their manager doesn’t suspect they’re interviewing, they are not in the right mind-frame to perform at their best.
Candidates need to be in an optimum environment and be prepared for the call, so reassure them that the hiring will understand if they need to reschedule for later in the day if they’ve called without notice.
2. Coach the candidate to speak slowly and calmly- and smile!
Phone interviews aren’t ideal. Humans rely a great deal on body language to assess:
a. How we feel about what someone is saying:
b. Do we believe them?
c. Do we trust them?
d. Do we like them?
In fact, research from UCLA indicates that only 7% of how someone feels about what we are saying is based on the words we use; 7%!!!
A further 55% is based on body language, which is also ruled out over the phone (unless you’re on Skype or facetime; more on that later), leaving the heavy lifting of phone interviews (38%) up to the candidate’s voice.
The tone, pitch, and volume of the candidate’s voice matters enormously in a phone interview, which is why you need to coach the candidate to speak slowly and calmly, at the right volume. A practice interview over the phone may well be required.
Smiling also ‘shows’ in the voice, so insist that the candidate answers the call with a smile.
3. Assess how they come across on Skype/facetime.
Even when communicating by Skype with the cameras activated, research indicates that candidates lose some of their natural body language in this setting and don’t come across as well as candidates interviewing face to face. The camera position messes with eye contact, facial expressions are harder to spot, and people don’t tend to use hand gestures as much.
Run a practice phone interview with the candidate to assess whether they come across naturally on screen, and encourage them to use their hands while talking and look at the camera, not people’s faces.
Also, ensure their camera is close enough to their face to pick up facial expressions clearly, and that it is positioned as close to eye level as possible.
4. Impress upon them the importance of creating a professional environment.
Dress for success, as they say. Candidates must take a phone interview while dressed as they would for a real interview, sitting with a straight back at an uncluttered desk, in a quiet room.
Even if the hiring manager can’t see them, it’s hard for someone to feel like a top candidate if he or she is dressed in their pyjamas, or sitting in a noisy café with someone’s screaming baby next to them.
Their phone must be off or on silent, call waiting should be turned off and any laptops put on mute. Their CV and any preparation should be right next to them on the desk.
Tell the candidate to have a working pen and paper ready to jot down notes- tapping on a laptop to take notes will be distracting for the person on the phone- particularly if it’s a Skype call.
5. Remind them that phone interviews are preliminary.
Phone interviews will generally be a stepping stone to the face-to-face interview. Candidates should understand this process, and answer questions concisely rather than in long-form with lots of detail.
In many cases, it will be a member of the recruiting team calling rather than the ultimate decision-maker, meaning the candidate needs to come across well on the phone and confirm that they’re worth having a more prolonged, in-person conversation with.
In the same vein, candidates should be made aware that there are some questions that shouldn’t be asked at this stage, such as questions about salary and benefits.
6. Tell them to practice and prepare.
You can (and should) give them some coaching over the phone, but you’re a busy recruiter, with little time. We get it! Encourage them to practice with a friend or family member over the phone, and get the friend to record it so the candidate can listen.
Also, make sure they’ve done their company research, so they’re not caught flat-footed on the day, and tell them to prepare some answers to likely questions such as ‘why do you want to work for the company’? Also, ask them to practice matching their skills to meet the job description.
Phone interviews have their challenges, which is why you need to prepare all of your candidates to set them up for success.
Until next time