The phone interview is the first step in this communication process—but there’s a problem. Phone interviews mean that you can’t see the person you’re talking to. When you can’t see them, your communication suffers.
You have no handy facial expressions or gestures to read, so that cuts a big source of information. They can’t see you, so your charming personality and winning smile is muffled. You can’t show them your 30-60-90-day plan or your brag book. You only have your words and your voice. So what do you do? You practice your answers to interview questions, you ask great questions, and you clarify for understanding.
Practice answering interview questions
When an interviewer asks you to talk a little about yourself, does your answer include your best qualities and skills and highlight your fit for the job? When they say, “Why are you interested in this job?” does your answer show sincere enthusiasm and include a few ways that your skills make you a great fit? When they say, “Why do you want to leave your current job?” does your answer sound like you are ready to make a positive step forward with them, or does it sound like you are running as fast as you can away from a job you hate? Practicing your answers ahead of time makes sure that you are hitting the right notes. Do a practice phone interview with someone so they can evaluate what you sound like.
Ask great questions
Good communication is all about give-and-take. You don’t want your interview to be an interrogation (they ask…you answer). You want it to be a conversation. You can’t have a good conversation if you don’t ask a few questions of your own. But ask good questions. Ask questions like, “What does your ideal candidate look like?” or “Why is this position open?” or “What are the biggest challenges going to be?” All these questions give you information that you can’t get from Google, that will give you a big advantage in this interview and in your face-to-face interview.
Clarify for understanding
If you don’t understand the question, don’t answer it. Ask what they mean. Candidates can stick their foot in their mouth really quickly by plowing ahead and answering something they don’t understand because they think they have to. If there’s any doubt at all, ask. It won’t hurt you. It will help you. All you have to do is say something like, “Do you mean X?” or “Are you referring to Y?” or “Are you asking about ABC?” You can’t communicate well if you’re not answering the question they asked.
Anything you can do in the interview to make your communication better and more clear is a good thing that will help you get the job.
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