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I've noticed a pattern while I have been looking for a new job, I am terrible at telephone interviews. The feedback I get is almost always negative: that I don't sound passionate or that I come across as underwhelmed. Out of 5 telephone interviews I have only been invited back for a face to face once and even that time they still gave negative feedback.

This is in contrast to my face to face interview technique which I regard as very good. I nearly always get invited back for a final interview and get an offer at least two thirds of the time. Even when I don't get an offer the feedback is positive.

I have a deep voice and I am worried that this may cause me to come across as bored or uninterested. How can I improve at telephone interviews?

UPDATE

I did some practice telephone interviews with some friends that I trust to give me honest feedback; they work in HR so I respect their opinions. They said I come across as bored, as if I am only half listening and like I would rather be doing anything else than be on the phone. They also said that I gave very closed answers to questions.

Obviously this is very bad, I do not intend to give this impression to people and always focus 100% on the interview and always thoroughly prepare for it. I think without body language and facial expressions I don't pick up on the requirement for more expansive answers that are required in certain situations.

I have decided to take some voice coaching and err on the side of longer answers and more talking rather than less.

  • 1
    How do you do with video chat? Is it like in-person chat, or more like the phone? (I'm not suggesting asking phone-screeners to use video chat; I'm suggesting a line of investigation to figure out if your issues are because of the phone itself (not being in the same room) or because of the audio-only signal.) – Monica Cellio Oct 24 '13 at 20:04
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    This isn't a big one, but it's definitely helped me! I will always dress up (slacks, dress shoes, shirt and tie) even for my phone interviews. It puts me in a more professional mindset even if I'm just sitting at my desk at home! Good luck in the future! – Callen L Oct 28 '13 at 20:46
  • Also not a big one: Smile. No one will see it but it slightly changes the sound of your voice and the person on the other end will notice this. Always worked for me, hope it will do the same for you! – Dario Dec 19 '14 at 14:25
12

Practice.

  • Find a good friend who is willing to give you honest feedback
    • As HLGEM points out, bonus if they've hired/interviewed from the other side
  • Record a short phone interview with them
  • Ask your friend to give, "how do you think this went?" feedback

You have to get both your perspective as well as that of people you trust to be able to see a blind spot, generally speaking. Recording this can help you but would be much more beneficial to have a friend/colleague give their thoughts.

Additionally, consider:

  • Body language doesn't exist on phone, obviously. Make sure to use clarification, such as, "does this answer your question?" or "so if I understand you correctly, you're asking bla bla bla" or otherwise request feedback which is normally obvious in person. This has the additional effect of making you appear more engaged.
  • Speak more quickly (if you are getting "you are boring" feedback ONLY, listen to your speed of voice and decide if this is appropriate)
  • Make prepared lists of "topics/answers you can get excited about" and use those during your interview
  • 1
    Especially find a friend or relative who has been on the hiring end of interviewing. – HLGEM Oct 24 '13 at 17:27
  • On the phone you are not able to see body language, how people are forming their words (looking at their mouth), so speaking more quickly is ill-advised unless you speak at the speed of a lifetime abuser of valium or the like. Otherwise, great advice. – jmac Oct 24 '13 at 23:37
  • Practice with friends can help if those friends have familiarity with the hiring process and take the exercise seriously. youtu.be/4mtUCoosXNA – Jim G. Oct 26 '13 at 12:44
5

Things to look out for:

  • Speaking in a monotone. This will make people think you are bored and boring. Also make sure you don't sigh.
  • Also make sure that you don't sound like your answer is a question by rising inflection at the end of the sentence. Makes you look insecure.
  • Long pauses after every question which makes them feel you are looking up the answer to the question. This is especially bad if they hear you typing.
  • Failure to ask questions. Interested candidates tend to have questions.
  • Clear failure to understand what the question was asking for (this is especially true if you are interviewing in a language that is not your native language) on every question. It is ok to ask for some clarification, if you do it on every question, you do not appear prepared or you appear as if your language skills are poor.
  • Behaving as if you are distracted or being distracted by things like barking dogs or crying children.
  • Talking about what you were responsible for vice what you actually accomplished.
  • Appearing to not be familar with what is on your own resume.

If a technical question is somewhat copmlicated, it is usually better to think out loud, rather than comeup with a complete solution in your head and then talk. This lets the interviewer see your thought process and even if the final answer if not what they were looking for, by discussing as you think it through, they can tell if you what you said makes sense interms of the way you were interpreting the question.

  • I actually cultivated raising the pitch of my voice at the end, since I was being perceived as arrogant a lot, and I noticed a lot of well-respected women who were not perceived as arrogant did this. Probably not relevant to the OP, but might make a difference to a woman who comes along with the same question. – Amy Blankenship Oct 25 '13 at 0:10
4

I worked at a call center while getting my college degree and I've found a lot of advice that I got while working there applies to phone interviews.

  • Tone of voice is important. Make sure you sound like you're actually happy to have that call.

  • Speak slowly and clearly. Some people have a habit of speeding up their speech if they get nervous or excited so watch out for that.

  • Make sure you are in a quiet place. Not only will this make it much easier for you and the interviewers to understand each other but a lot of them consider it unprofessional of you to take the call in an area with a lot of background noise.

  • If you are taking the call from a cellphone make sure you are in a place with good reception and a strong consistent signal. Nothing is more embarrassing than having to call the interviewer back because the call got dropped or blowing an interview because the reception was so bad you could barely understand them.

  • Do practice. Most phone screenings wont be super technical but you should be able to answer questions such as "tell us about yourself" or "what's your experience with X" fairly easily.

2

Well, I can give you some tips. First, I have a low voice, as well, and I also have a degree in Audio Engineering, so I have quite a bit of insight into the audio issues.

First, many phones don't have very good microphones, and phone networks roll off lower frequencies for bandwidth issues. Your choice of phone can make a huge impact. If you can, get a good headset with a good microphone, and don't use a handheld cell. I recommend the Logitech H800, or something similar. Something with a microphone that comes out in front of your mouth, not on the side of your cheek. Microphone placement helps a lot with the "tone" of your voice. Also, you won't have your "handling noise" from your hand gripping the cell phone or the handset of a desk phone.

Second, posture. Like your grandmother said, sit up strait and pull your shoulders back. Sitting slumped over compresses your chest, making you breathe shallower. This makes you try to "conserve" your air, and you end up mumbling. Proper posture also makes you feel more "alert," and that comes across on the phone. If you can, stand up. It really does help.

Finally, diction. Low-voiced people don't convey as much audio information. There are fewer sound cycles, and fewer harmonics to carry the important language sounds that distinguish "Dog" from "Bog," "Him" from "Whim," etc. Make sure you are clearly articulating your consonants. Don't over-do it, but make them sharp. If you're a "Talk-with-your-hands" type, then by all means use your hands. It will help make your voice dynamic. Have you ever watched a show where a singer is recording? They aren't just sitting there singing, even though only a producer and an engineer are watching them. They're moving, waving their arms, almost dancing. That energy comes through in your voice, and they know that and use it. You can use it, too.

One other technique: When you talk on the phone, visualize the person standing 5 feet or so in front of you, and address that image. We are naturally "lazy" when we don't think anyone's seeing us, and most of us spend much more time talking casually on the phone than professionally (unless you work a call center or a support desk). We have a different demeanor when it's "just the phone." You have to break that habit.

@CallenL suggested dressing up for the interview. If that helps put you in the right frame of mind for the call, then by all means do it.

0

Are you bad in face to face situations also? Or just by phone? Maybe start practicing face to face interview too. Also, it is very important to smile. Even if body language "does not exist" by phone, some signals can still be sensed.

Regards

  • Hi ctutte and welcome to The Workplace! On our site, we're looking for answers with some depth that explain why and how. Our goal is to build a library of knowledge for navigating the professional workplace. Please consider an edit to expand, and be sure to answer the full question and provide better or different information than existing answers. See how to answer for details. I hope to see you around! :D – Matt Giltaji Dec 19 '14 at 20:20

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