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How to Sell Yourself During a Phone Interview

November 23rd, 2018

When your employers contact you by phone for an initial screening or a formal interview, you’ll want to be ready. Phone interviews and in-person interviews are very different, and while in some ways the phone may be an easier tool for candidates, it also precludes some helpful forms of non-verbal communication like body language and facial expressions. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get ready to wow an employer with your voice alone.

Smiling and nice clothes still have an impact.

Your employer can’t see your face, but certain expressions show through in our voices, and a smile is one of them. When you’re smiling, your listeners can hear it. So, as you say hello and greet the person, make sure you’re wearing an appropriate expression—even if there’s no one in the room with you. As for professional clothing, what you wear can subtly influence your presentation and sense of self. There’s no need to dress to the nines but keep this unconscious connection in mind as you prepare for your call.

Avoid friendly interruptions.

A few well-intended interruptions may be fine and may even come off as a sign of high enthusiasm. But don’t let them become a pattern. In real life, your interruption says, “I’m excited by what you’re saying, and I don’t need to hear all of it before I chime in”, but over the phone, this isn’t clear. Let your employer finish speaking and then pause for a full second before you respond.

Complete every sentence and laugh audibly.

Don’t say anything—a statement, a joke, an assertion, or an agreeable remark—unless you are prepared to turn your words into a complete sentence or thought. Don’t stop short or trail off. Trail-offs have a place in face-to-face conversation, but with a stranger over the phone, they can be confusing. As for laughter, when your interviewer makes a lighthearted remark, turn your quiet smile or shy chuckle into an audible laugh, or a “ha ha”. Otherwise it’s just a weird silence.

Let your interviewer drive.

Let the conversation go wherever your interviewer wants to take it and let them control the pace. When two people vie for the driver’s seat in a face-to-face dialogue, the result can be engaging, sparkling and often meaningful and memorable. But over the phone, signals can easily get crossed and confused. One driver is enough. If you’d like to redirect, do so clearly and assertively.

Turn up your wattage.

Are you interested in the job? Are you excited to share your relevant experience and qualifications? Do you have questions about the role? Great! Take this energy and play to the back row. Dial everything up by one notch so it’s easier for your listener to pick up on your vibe.

For more on how to ace your interview—on the phone or in person—turn to the career management experts at Merritt.

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