Phone Interviewing: The Tale of Two Calls

Don Draper

“Just get me in a room.” –That’s Don Draper’s signature line in Mad Men. and refers to his uncanny ability to smooth-talk anyone. While I may not close million dollar deals before breakfast, I usually do well with people. This was not the case, however, when I had my first phone interview…

First off, I had broken my routine the day before. Rather than my usual afternoon bike ride, I spent the extra time researching the organization. While this type of preparation was good, I had too much nervous energy so I didn’t sleep well. To make matters worse, I gave myself a full hour of free time before my interview, which I mostly spent glancing at the clock every three minutes. I was worried before the call even started.

Without having the physical gestures and body language of normal conversations, phone calls can be awkward and disjointed. But I dwelled on this fact before the interview even started, so when the conversation got clumsy for a moment, I felt as if my worst fears were being realized. I reacted by talking quickly. At some point I got up to walk—thinking that it would calm me—but I soon found myself pacing and my breath became even more hurried.

When a friend asked me how the interview went, I dropped Draper’s line; “Just get me in a room!”

It turns out, I did need room. A very specific one. For my next phone interview, I borrowed the use of a friend’s office that had a window overlooking the park. This helped because I had something to look at. My eyes could wander so I didn’t have to. It also felt like an interview because I was sitting in an office setting. If you get fidgety during a phone interview, find a way to occupy yourself in a way that won’t distract you: find an appealing view, a painting, or grab a stress ball.

In contrast to my first interview, I kept busy by doing some painting until fifteen minutes before the call. This not only calmed my nerves but focused my mind. So if you have a hobby you find relaxing (yoga, braiding, playing an instrument, etc.), use it as a preparation tool. It’s a better strategy than dwelling on what could go wrong. That can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you can find strategies to help you relax before and during your interview, you will have a much easier time presenting your true self on the phone. Let yourself act naturally by smiling and gesturing like in normal conversation—you’ll find it imbues confidence and friendliness to the cadence your voice.

~Jarrod Szydlowski, Career Peer Advisor

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