In a Wannabe Hacks ‘How to’ triple-header, the Freelancer, Chancer and Maverick chat about interview technique.
Following the Freelancer’s tips on face-to-face interviewing now it’s the Chancer’s turn to offer his advice when it comes to the phone interview.
As ever we at Hacks are not for a minute suggesting that these tips are the gospel on interviewing, merely our tips, we want you to add yours to this post by comment underneath.
It’s quite fitting that I am taking on the responsibility of talking about phone interviews as in recent weeks I have conducted my fair share as part of the work for my MA project. As pointed out in that jolly little preamble above I am not God’s gift at interview, I am just sharing my experience and would be rather chuffed if you lot added your tips to this post. Right then, let’s get cracking…
Now you might not have to put your smartest clothes on for a phone interview but trust me location is important. Yesterday I tried to interview someone over the phone whilst on a dog walk. This is not to be advised. Neither is a busy corridor, park bench or train. Just because you’re using a mobile doesn’t mean you should be…mobile. Get set-up, chair, desk and all that jazz. A solid, quiet location is a key initial tip which links to the rest of the points I’m about to make.
2. Don’t dismiss the dictaphone
Obviously always record an interview if you can and don’t think you can’t still use your dictaphone just because you’re not sat next to someone. Firstly there is this very nifty gadget which I purchased a few weeks back which lets you record phone conversations using an in-ear microphone. But if you haven’t got one of those then never doubt the power of loud-speaker. With a desk and a quiet location (see I told you it would come up again) you should have no problem recording a phone interview. I have managed to do so many times in the past despite having a very old and basic mobile.
3. Back-channel and intonation
I’m going to crack out the English Language lingo here because as the Freelancer said, it is so important to make your interviewee feel comfortable. Only problem is that on the phone a nod, smile and eye contact are futile so instead it’s all about the back-channelling. A positive murmur or contemplative ‘hmmm’ goes a long way to show the other person you are listening to their answer and encourages them to keep talking. A positive tone is vital throughout and this is something my dull Northern tones always struggle with but little hints and supportive nudges are so key to a successful phone interview.
4. Be more liberal with your scribble
This is one point where I think there is a direct opposite to the Freelancer’s tips. With no need to think about what the interviewee can see this is your chance to make notes of further questions, put a big circle around a question which wasn’t well answered and get some more points lined up for later on. It’s not great to be interviewing over the phone but it can have it’s advantages.
5. Try and have a laptop or smartphone nearby
This tip only became obvious to me in the last few days. As I have been interviewing experts on the topic for my MA project I have found them saying things like ‘and of course there was Mr. X who said this’ and I give the encouraging back-channel whilst panicking that I have no idea who this apparently famous person is. And so, a quick search on the net and I’m up to speed.
6. Don’t make too much noise
Yes, you can discreetly tap the keyboard and yes, make sure you are writing notes but remember (and I know this sounds obvious) that in this case it’s all about what the interviewee can hear. Another example from my recent interviews, I was sat in my room, perfect set-up in place, interview going well and I just swiveled in my chair which then squeaked and the interviewee stopped midway through an answer to ask what the noise was, therefore losing their train of thought. Little pointers which can make all the difference.
Have you got any other tips for phone interviews? If so add them in the comments section below and check out the Hacks site tomorrow for the Maverick’s tips for an email interview…