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Thread: Phone interview tips

  1. #1
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    Phone interview tips

    I have my first interview on Monday, and it's a phone interview. I'm much better interviewing in person, and it's my first phone interview, so any tips would be appreciated.
    Also, thanks to all that have helped in the past. This board rules.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Here are a few from my expereinces

    1) Prepare and have everything handy, just as you would in a face to face interview.
    2) Be careful not to interupt, let them ask the question, wait a moment to confirm that they are done and then proceed. When you are done answering a question, make it clear by using phrases and tempo of sentences that indicate it. Nothing worse than saying "I'm done"
    3) don't use a speaker phone
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  3. #3
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by donk
    Here are a few from my expereinces

    1) Prepare and have everything handy, just as you would in a face to face interview.
    2) Be careful not to interupt, let them ask the question, wait a moment to confirm that they are done and then proceed. When you are done answering a question, make it clear by using phrases and tempo of sentences that indicate it. Nothing worse than saying "I'm done"
    3) don't use a speaker phone
    Good advice. My first planning job was secured by two phone interviews. Ketchikan, Alaska was not going to fly me up there for an interview.

    In some ways it was better than a face-to-face because they couldn't see I was nervous and they sent me the questions beforehand, so I had my answers well-crafted beforehand.

    I would add the following. If possible, find out what you can about the area you are interviewing for. I was able to slip into my interview little gems of information that showed I knew the place and was interested in living there.

    When they introduce themselves, write down the names and try to match the name and voice. Because you can't see them and cannot look at them when you speak, saying their name is the only way to connect directly with the person asking the question.

    The biggest advantage to a phone interview is you can do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Wear your most comfortable or comforting clothes, if you want. Have a beverage (non-alcoholic, of course). Make notes beforehand and spread them out in front of you (but don't touch or rustle the papers during the interview).

    Give it some thought and see if you can find ways to make the phone interview work best for you.

    Phone interviews can get you hired! Or at least convince them to invite you for the second interview face-to-face.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    Good advice. My first planning job was secured by two phone interviews. Ketchikan, Alaska was not going to fly me up there for an interview.

    In some ways it was better than a face-to-face because they couldn't see I was nervous and they sent me the questions beforehand, so I had my answers well-crafted beforehand.

    I would add the following. If possible, find out what you can about the area you are interviewing for. I was able to slip into my interview little gems of information that showed I knew the place and was interested in living there.

    When they introduce themselves, write down the names and try to match the name and voice. Because you can't see them and cannot look at them when you speak, saying their name is the only way to connect directly with the person asking the question.

    The biggest advantage to a phone interview is you can do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Wear your most comfortable or comforting clothes, if you want. Have a beverage (non-alcoholic, of course). Make notes beforehand and spread them out in front of you (but don't touch or rustle the papers during the interview).

    Give it some thought and see if you can find ways to make the phone interview work best for you.

    Phone interviews can get you hired! Or at least convince them to invite you for the second interview face-to-face.
    This is right on target. I especially encourage reading up on the place interviewing you--that will show them that you are genuinely interested in the place (well, that could be a lie, but you get the point) and shows your resourcefulness. I would use note cards to avoid that rustling sound and getting names straight is helpful to make the interview more personal to them. When you give answers, try to restate the question in the answer.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I have read that you should stand up (or at least sit up straight) when doing anything important on the phone to have the full depth of your lungs available so your voice sounds strong. So, no slouching.

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    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    What is that saying about being nervous and imagining everybody naked.

    Well in a phone interview you can be naked

    Just kidding, no real good tips here, but smile and enjoy yourself.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Don't let the comforts of being at home distract you. Make sure you turn off the radio, tv, cell phones or any other noise-makers. If you know the exact time the call will take place, ask your friends not to call you during that particular time. Also, don't answer the other phone line if you have call waiting. Don't eat or chew gum either. Those little sounds will be amplified to the caller.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  8. #8
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Planderella
    Also, don't answer the other phone line if you have call waiting.
    I recommend disabling call waiting about 10 minutes before the scheduled interview. Often the call waiting sound indicator can be heard by the parties on the other end of the line.

    Just don't forget to enable it when the interview is over.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  9. #9
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    More advice

    If possible, don't use a cordless phone and if you are, make sure it is fully charged.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  10. #10
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    well.....

    MZ has a good idea, stand up while on the phone....you should feel better and standing makes you feel more in control (less apt to doze off while they blab on about some code issue...)

    Don't sit in your car at lunch while fire trucks and police cars go by
    Don't talk outside during a wind storm
    Make sure your mom won't pick up the other line and demand to know who your talking to....

    Do write down all the names. Know their codes or code issues and some of the problems in their city/town/burg/county and be prepared to offer a solution (if the job is management/leader oriented) Know basic background stuff about the place,
    demographics and census stuff.

    Now that I've said all that, I've had bad luck with phone interviews in the past....
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  11. #11
    Cyburbian geobandito's avatar
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    I've gotten two jobs through phone interviews, so it does work!

    Make sure you're in a quiet place. Especially if the people (since it's often more than one person) are using a speakerphone. Sometimes it's very hard to hear, and you don't want to have to repeatedly have to ask them to speak up. You also have to listen closely when you're talking in case they're trying to interupt you or clarify a question.

    In some ways, it's easier than a real interview; but in other ways, it's more difficult. The worst is not being able to see their facial expressions. And when it's multiple people, trying to decide if they're rolling their eyes at each other, and it's harder to joke.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    I had two phone interviews as well, and they were in college, in a house with 5 wild roommates, and on an unreliable cell phone (all I had).
    I basically informed myself about each town (two interviews for two different positions) and prepared questions for them at the end.
    I was very relaxed, doing each interview in sweats while sitting on my recliner.
    And if you are living in the same situation, make sure to tell your roommates what is going on and when so no loud tunes are playing on the other side of the wall and leave a note on your door to not disturb you.

    Relax, they know you're nervous and will be okay with that. Listen to the questions, and do your best. I was very discouraged after my first phone interview, but I am writing this advise in a cubicle at that city, and I am coming up on a year.

    And go play some wiffleball after the interview to unwind.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Make good eye contact with the reciever.

    Like MZ says, stand. You will sound clearer and think better.

    Take notes. Questions can be difficult to understand, as you do not pick up on the meaning conveyed through body language. If it is not absolutely clear, restate the question as you begin your response.

    Most planners are visually oriented. I find myself often talking with a map in front of me. Today as I was speaking with an architect I noticed how we both had paper in front of us and would draw as we spoke. It is a trick we use to help us think. If this is comfortable for you, do it. Have examples of your work handy, and when they ask you about your experience, glance at these as reminders.

    Best of luck.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Three things: Speak up. Speak up. Speak up. I just went through a round of phone interviews, and one interviewee was so quiet and timid that before he finished his first sentence we had crossed him off the list.

    "I don't know" is usually the wrong answer. "Gee, I'd have to give that one some thought." is better, as it buys you some time to gather your thoughts. And have some thoughts. Show that you are a critical (analytical) thinker. If you can't think of anything, ask a question back: "Gee, I'd have to give that one some thought. Is it a big issue for this position (or city, or whatever)?" "How has that come up lately?" "What has been the response of the community to that?" Show that you are engaged in the interview process.

    Interviewers almost always ask, "Do you have any questions for us?" "No" is always the wrong answer. Have some that show you are thinking (and don't ask anything at this stage about money, perks, hours, etc. That's for later in the process).

    Questions like "What do you see as the biggest challenges facing this position?" Or "What are some of the specific issues I would be dealing with in this position?"

    Do your homework: almost every town has a local newspaper on line. Look it over for matters to bring up. Don't be afraid to say, "I was looking at the News-Blurb and I noticed that ..... Would I be working on this?"

    Also, use the "any questions?" question as an opportunity to sell yourself in a subtle manner: "Yes, I do. I have been working on a our local geographic information system, in fact I developed it for the town where I had my most recent internship, and I am particularly interested in using my GIS skills in my next position. What kind of GIS do you have, or are you planning on going electronic soon? Would I have an opportunity to use my GIS skills in this job?"

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    Wow! These are all really great tips. I'm interviewing for an entry level job. What are some questions that could be posed?

  16. #16
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal

    Like MZ says, stand. You will sound clearer and think better.
    Just don't lock your knees!

    Quote Originally posted by urbanwalker
    Wow! These are all really great tips. I'm interviewing for an entry level job. What are some questions that could be posed?
    You will get the "what are your strengths & weaknesses" question, guaranteed. Be ready for several open-ended questions about your qualifications. Also, study up on what you put on your resume--interviewers often draw questions from it for expansion. If you list GIS, expect them to ask about a recent project and what skills you used. I think you will probably get a question about why you are interested in that job or that particular city. If you list using statistical packages, they may ask about how you used them at a previous job/in class. If you have decent writing skills, try like hell to bring those up! I've met some planners that are incredibly bad writers, which seems strange in a field that involves a significant amount of writing. If you have any more unusual skills, like website design, those are useful to bring up.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian jenniplans's avatar
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    For those with earrings...
    If you tend to shift your phone from one ear to another, take out your earrings beforehand - the interviewers can hear the plastic being scratched. I know this sounds crazy, but a collegue said she could hear this over the speakerphone.

  18. #18
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    Telephone Interviews

    Good Luck......Just a few tips from me that I inferred from many mentors.

    Watch out on standing up! If your like me, when I stand and I'm thinking of solutions or answers I tend to pace, which could transfer into the phone. (And yes, my close family friend who's hired CEO's and such says that you can hear it) Hadn't quite figured out it's relevence, but knowing helps. Regardless....

    The one thing that has really helped me, personally (possibly not for this intervew), is that I made a CD with my information (resume / papers, etc). With CD's being 25 cents or less per disc., I went out to the store, spent $20 on a CD labling kit with label applicator and designed a label with the software to apply to the CD.

    At some point in time, if it hasn't come up, I ask if they're interested in the information to review my personal writing skills that also highlights my multitude of experences as well as my skills at the computer and producing graphics. To this day, I have yet to have one person decline. It hasn't gotten me a job yet, but I do think it has been one of the things that has allowed me to go onto many a secondary interview. Of course, where I am better in person as well.

    Good Luck and best wishes.
    Urban P.

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    PHEW! First interview completed. No strengths or weakness asked outright, but alluded to in questioning.
    Thanks again for all the tips. Most were used and worked well. I hope I can one day help as much as everyone helped me. Have a great day, Planners.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by urbanwalker
    Wow! These are all really great tips. I'm interviewing for an entry level job. What are some questions that could be posed?
    "If you could be a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be? And why?"
    Seriously, I LOVE using that one for levity.

    Another of my favorites to whittle out candidates is, "What Simpsons character are you most like? And Why?" And after their reply, "Give me a quote by that character."

    I agree with all the other tips, especialy if you have noisy kids, pets, or room mates. Lose them temporarily!

    Off-topic:
    In college I had a phone interview as an admin. intern with Cayman Brac. A room mate took the scheduling call and forgot to tell me about it. After a night of hard core partying and sleeping in, the phone rang. Same room mate answered the phone with a pleasant greeting of, "THIS BETTER BE F***ING IMPORTANT!"

    Yeah, I didn't get that job.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Chet
    "If you could be a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be? And why?"
    Seriously, I LOVE using that one for levity.

    Another of my favorites to whittle out candidates is, "What Simpsons character are you most like? And Why?" And after their reply, "Give me a quote by that character."
    I could never get a job with you. I can't quote The Simpsons.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    ~bump~

    so my time in San Antonio wasn't all fun and debauchery with other cyburbians. i was offered a phone interview!

    i've read through this thread and some of the others but just wanted to see if anyone else had any more tips for the phone interview process.

    thanks in advance.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    The job I am at now required a phone interview first. I was invited to come down for a face-to-face interview about 30-minutes later, so I think it went well. My suggestions:

    1) Do it on a landline if possible.

    2) Do it somewhere very quiet. I walked down the street to a hotel lobby, as my call was during the workday. If at home, close all doors and windows and let other people in the house know about it.

    3) Answer the phone and speak with inflection. Do not speak in monotone (a problem I have on the phone).

    4) Make small talk before beginning the interview. Humor never hurts, if you have any.

    5) Speak clearly into the phone as if you were speaking to someone face-to-face.

    6) Be careful not to cut the other person off. Wait a little after they stop speaking before you begin.

    7) Prepare as you would for a regular interview (internet research, prep three questions, etc.).

    8) Send a thank you note/e-mail after the interview.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian big_g's avatar
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    Dandy

    I've done a few phone interviews myself. Those before me in this thread have share lots of great tips. All I would add is...even though it is a phone interview...smile, smile, smile. I think that smiling as if you were face to face with interviewers will some how show through the phone. I think that it can help remind you to be warm and pleasant as possible and keep you focused on your tone. and should you answer their questions.

    It may sound kind of silly but I think it works.

    Good Luck!

  25. #25
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    thanks for the tips, big_g and jmello.

    this will be my first official planning interview. i hope it goes well. in the past i have done well in face-to-face interviews but that was before i entered the planning world. after reading some of the other interviewing threads i'm a bit nervous about what i might be asked.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

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