Kitty Blackadder

A Scottish blog about anxiety, minimalism and eyeshadow.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Phone Interviews; My Tips

I am soon to be relocating and with that comes, for me, the joys of hunting for a new job - not an activity anyone enjoys, but certainly a necessary evil! There are all kinds of different ways companies can select employees; from really long online applications, to trial shifts, to handing in CVs, to group recruitment days and of course, telephone interviews. I've had a few recently and thought I'd share my tips for staying calm and coping with them.

1. Tell EVERYONE you have a phone interview...

I don't mean alert the national media or go Twitter-happy I mean make sure that everyone in your home, anyone who could suddenly appear home or anyone who's likely to call you knows to just ssssshhhhhh. You can be sitting at home, all ready to go, glass of water, pen and paper and then, BOOM, the front door, someone is home and shouting for you and of course, then your phone rings. So take the time to make sure people know your phone and front door are off limits at that time.

2. Feed the cat and walk the dog...

My cats have a super special ability to sense awkwardness-opportunity. Someone with allergies? Yes, yes I will sit on your lap. You're trying to get ready? Yes, I do need to sit right here, on top of your eyeliner, blocking this mirror. They can also sense important phone calls. If Kenny calls, nothing, mum calls, nothing - telephone interview starts and they begin practicing their yodelling, scratching at doors or winding themselves so tightly round you, you can't talk due to fur inhalation. Before an important call I always make sure they're freshly fed, hugged ... and if possible, turfed into the back yard for the duration.

3. Be prepared ...

In my experience telephone interviews carry fairly standard questions, standard that is, relevant to the industry you're applying for. So for retail; you're going to get the, 'what do you bring to the team?', the 'what is good customer service?' etc. However, there may be some surprise ones and I'd advise having a Google and checking online for people's reports of the interview experience for whatever company your applying to - that's not to say they will be exactly the same, but in my experience it gives a good idea, and of course, it's always good to consider answers to a lot of the general questions that can come up for any job; "why are you leaving your current job?", "What were the strengths and weaknesses of your previous manager?" those kinds of things.

Also, and maybe even more importantly is to study up on the company you're applying for; who they are, what they do, and what they're mission is. Also, the specific role you're applying for - what will be required of you (and how you'll ace it).

4. But not too prepared ...

While it's good to consider potential answers, or angles you want to focus on, do not write a script for yourself, no matter how sure you are certain things can come up. You want to sound enthusiastic and passionate not rehearsed and overly formal. Also, you can be easily caught out by curve ball questions if you do this. Once in a phone interview, the question began: "Name a time that you have worked as part of a team..." phew, I thought, standard question about the importance of team work and what I bring to a team - there's a myriad of examples I could give to answer this from my CV... "... and you let the team down. What caused this to happen and how have you learned from it and improved yourself now?" Whhhhhaaaaaaa?!!? Suffice to say that really threw me, I had not thought of an answer to that one. If this happens, and you get caught off, try not to panic and "oooh, and uhm" just take a second, take a deep breath and compose yourself. If it's really knocked you, it's better to say "Wow, that's a good question, I just want to take a second to think of the best example I can give you" than to go "uummm... well, you know... sometimes, I just um, I guess I, well... what was the question?" Stay calm and as focused and in control as you can - confidence is key, odds are they are looking to see how you cope under pressure.

5. It is a 'real' interview...

Once, back in my teens, I had a phone interview without any warning. No email or text or letter to say it was happening, it just happened. I was asleep when the home phone rang - and I mean deep asleep - so I ended running, totally naked, to answer it in the hall ... to then find out it was an interview. 

I sat there, butt naked, on the carpet, freezing cold and hoping it wasn't the day the window cleaner came round, so half asleep my eyes weren't even open yet, and I did a grueling 20 minute phone interview - I got the job. However, I decided I never wanted that experience again. Every other phone interview I've had has been scheduled but for me I still like to get up really early and go through many of the motions I would if I was going to a 'real' interview. By that I don't mean I get up and put on a suit, but I get up in plenty time so I'll be fully awake, I take a shower and get dressed and have something to eat. Try and resist the urge to set an alarm ten minutes before the interview and just roll over and answer the phone; it will come across in your voice and your answers. 

And that's it, those are my tips for coping with phone interviews. I'm not claiming to be a pro by any means but I've had a few experiences so I thought it was worth sharing them with you - any tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below! 

A little public service announcement: I'm still in Florida (until the 1st) soakin' up rays and riding roller coasters, but remember posts are still going up every other day, and I'm reachable by Twitter (@kittyblackadder) and by email (!
Thanks for reading!

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