Why You Should Be Wary of the Phone Interview
An IT Hiring Manager's Insight
By Joe Issid
Monster.ca Tech Jobs Expert
You are not alone in feeling relieved when a big job interview is scheduled to take place over the phone. Many people are, quite frankly, terrified of interviews so eliminating the formality of a face to face meeting can be a welcome change. That you can engage in a nerve-wracking meeting from the comfort of your favourite armchair does offer a certain level of respite. I get that.
But let me tell you what the guy on the other end of the phone is thinking.
Most IT Managers are, well, IT guys. They like routers and RAM. They like learning new operating systems and NAT-ing. They like making quick and informed decisions on myriad issues on a daily basis. That is what they are paid to do. So it stands to reason that they don’t like being pulled away from their switches and hubs to talk to strangers. This is the hard truth, I’m afraid.
The average IT Manager doesn’t particularly like sitting on long telephone calls interviewing people. They especially don’t like sitting on long boring telephone calls. (And yes, interviews can be very yawn-y affairs.) It is hard for them to break out of their routine to focus on an interview if they are performing it from their desk. Being able multi-taskers, they are quite likely to be implementing complex firewall rules while you are talking about your last job as a Sys Admin. Thus, impressing an IT Manager on the phone can be a difficult task as he may be only partially paying attention.
If it feels like the odds are stacked against the phone interviewee…well, they are, unfortunately. But let me give you some tips to break through the wall of the mundane:
Eliminate ‘Other’ Factors First
Now that you know what you are up against, eliminate any possible negative factors on your end. If you had planned to take the interview on your cell phone while hiding away in the washroom in your current office, well…don’t.
Find an appropriate place to talk where there are no other distractions. Try and avoid locations where you are surrounded by screaming children, heavy traffic or barking dogs. This noise will reflect badly on you and will make your interviewer want to stab himself in the ear. Or worse, hang up the phone.
And please refrain from smoking. They can hear you. It makes you sound like Darth Vader. And not in a good way.
Keep Your Answers Short and to the Point
Remember, your interviewer cannot see your flailing arms or the sparkling excitement in your eyes. He can only go by what he is hearing and (without getting too philosophical) what he is not hearing. Answer the questions succinctly and sharply. Your interviewer will really appreciate your brevity and your desire to communicate efficiently. You don’t want him tuning you out as you talk for minutes uninterrupted. On that note…
Think Out Loud
Pregnant pauses on the phone are greatly magnified and can turn very awkward (I am sure you can recall similar conversations from your early dating days). Do not feel compelled to fill them if it is not your turn to speak. A good interviewer will ask you clear questions and a good interviewee will respond quickly. If you are unsure of an answer, say so right away. Talk your way through answers that require explanation; the finger arithmetic that you are performing is invisible to the person on the other end.
Make them aware by thinking out loud.
Don’t Look at the Clock
Phone interviews are typically shorter than in-person meetings so don’t worry about filling time. If it feels like the interview is coming to a close after, say, 25 minutes, that is fine. Don’t fight it. Do not unnecessarily prolong the conversation just to make yourself feel better. As long as you have discussed salient points about yourself and the position, you should feel at ease ending the conversation at its natural conclusion.
Many people may suggest that you dress up for a phone interview as a means of projecting a more professional image (albeit verbally). This is hogwash. The very act of dressing up for an interview can be cause enough for anxiety so you will want to eliminate this. Plus, you will probably feel like a bit of an idiot. Keep your surroundings casual and familiar. Your interviewer wants you at your relaxed best. He is not looking for a date to the prom.
At the end of the day, the interviewee has no control over the venue of an interview. Just because you are given the freedom to discuss a potential job over the phone doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be prepared. Establish a good plan ahead of the call: pick a good location, eat/drink/smoke beforehand, relax and pretend that you are talking to just another guy about computers. Because that’s all you are doing.