How to conduct a good phone interview
Time is in short supply these days. But luckily expertise and a willingness to share are not! During our strategic planning work at The Letter M we’ve conducted hundreds of phone interviews with contacts here and around the world. I’m happy to pass on some hard-learned advice:
Understand the challenges! Appearance and body language are redundant in phone interviews. That’s good – and bad. You have to rely on the full strength of your personality, tone of voice and inflection to speak for you.
Prepare! You don’t need to spend hours carefully choosing words and crafting grammatically-sound questions. But you do need a solid understanding of what the point of the discussion is and the importance of an interviewee’s contributions.
Research! Don’t compile a dossier. But a simple LinkedIn or Google search will put a respondent’s answers in perspective or find some common ground upon which to establish rapport. Also, indicating that you’ve done research is a sign of respect for their valuable time.
Listen! It’s one thing to toss in your own anecdote to establish rapport, but it’s quite another to turn the interview into one about yourself! Don’t work too hard to establish a connection or “phone friendship” through unnecessary banter.
Make it casual! Don’t march mechanically through your questions. Let the conversation flow and understand that the interview may go in unplanned areas. Circle back if there is a risk that you won’t meet the main informational objective of the interview, but otherwise, harness their enthusiasm to explore new avenues that might lead to valuable information.
Let them finish! There is a danger – especially over the phone – to interrupt. It’s bad form in person and it’s bad form on the phone too.