Put your best voice forward… you don’t even need to wear a suit!

13 Feb 2013 | Naomi Marshall

As companies look to streamline systems and find more efficient ways to not only recruit staff but manage interviewing we have seen a rise in the old ‘phone interview’. They can be fraught with danger if you don’t know how to handle one or have never done one before.

Personally I’m not a fan of the phone interview in a professional recruitment process for a whole variety of reasons, the main one being that neither party can see each other and when you take out the sense of sight you must rely purely on the voice and communication skills.

Some people are very gifted in this area. They have a fantastic phone voice, are articulate and can tell a story well without the assistance of non-verbal communication tools such as hand gestures or facial expressions.

However, the vast majority of people need to apply a little bit of effort here to really nail it!

Here are a few quick tips to help you in the future:

  • You MUST ensure you are in a quiet place and be certain you won’t have any interruptions. Nothing kills the mood of the interview if the interviewer has to raise their voice constantly, needs to ask you repeatedly “can you hear me” or needs to speak over buses going past. Try to speak off a landline as opposed to a mobile if you have access to one.
  • First and foremost speak clearly and if you are a naturally fast talker, slow down a little.
  • Try smiling when you speak – it can help you sound more upbeat. Try it, your tone raises just that little bit doesn’t it?  Now I don’t recommend talking through the whole interview with a cheesy smile or you might end up sounding a little bit odd, but use it as a technique to emphasise key things or emphasise a skill or experience you are proud of.
  • Remember that you only have your voice to show your energy levels. No-one will see how quickly you walked in the door, or how firmly you shook hands, that you are wearing the most sharp looking outfit of all time or how eager you are coming across as you sit on the edge of your chair. They will only feel your energy through your tone and overall communications style so push yourself out of your comfort zone and speak up!
  • Speak with confidence but choose your words carefully as you don’t want to waffle.
  • In terms of answering questions, it can help to jot down a few words of the question as the interviewer is speaking to you. That way you stay focused on that question as you speak.
  • With your words, create a very clear picture for the interviewer so they can ‘feel’ you performing the role. Give more than a one word or one sentence answer, paint the picture and engage them by emphasising key words about your experience and outstanding skills.
  • Control your breathing, stay calm and if at any time you are a little nervous just ask for a quick break (although that isn’t ideal as you really want to show you’re on your game and can think on your feet so only do so if you really think you need it).
  • The positives are that you can have key words about yourself and your strengths right in front of you for quick reference in case you are put on the spot. You can also have notes about the company handy and scan over them if required.
  • The other plus is that don’t have to do your hair, iron your outfit, put on a tie or travel anywhere to the interview.

Phone interviews have their place e.g. for interstate or international interviews, to speed up a recruitment process when the two parties can’t meet quickly and for bulk recruitment processes when it’s just not possible to bring in a vast number of people.

However, in my opinion nothing beats the old fashioned face to face interview between two people where you can truly build a lasting relationship. You can both speak, both listen and you can also pick up on all the incredibly valuable non-verbal communication signs that help make up a person in total.

At the end of the day, a person is more than just a voice.

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