Ten Top Telephone Tips

(Well eight actually, but I couldn’t spoil the alliteration.  That said, you never know, I may have come up with a couple more by the time I’ve finished writing this piece).

If you’re anything like me you hate using the telephone.  I don’t like chatting on it, and I really don’t like receiving calls.  Don’t they know I’m doing something and they are disturbing me?

Free stock image of an old phone.  Maybe I could have got an image of a new one if I were prepared to pay for it).

Free stock image of an old phone. Maybe I could have got an image of a new one if I were prepared to pay for it.

Pre-arranged calls are OK for work, I suppose, they are convenient and can be helpful when you want to do no more than exchange information.  I use them regularly to assess potential clients.  It saves us both time, allowing me to understand what the client wants in terms of support. However, unless there are logistical or geographical factors that demand telephone conversations, I strongly resist them for the rest of the coaching or counselling relationship because, quite simply, there is no substitute for being together in a room if you really want to get to know a person.

That’s why telephone interviews have limited value.  They’re useful for screening people out of the interview process but I wouldn’t recommend their use for the latter stages of selection.  Nonetheless, they are used frequently and it’s worth understanding how to be at your best when you’re facing one.

  1. Speak slowly and clearly.  Not like some weird person who is teaching pronunciation.  Just remember that without the visual clues, and because the quality of sound of the ‘phone may be variable, you won’t be as clear as in a face to face conversation.
  2. Speak with more intonation.  Again, I’m not saying you lack vocal animation, but over the telephone you really need to work your voice a bit harder.  Modulate it, i.e. focus on stress, pitch, tonal variation and volume.  That doesn’t mean do everything louder.  It means use more variety in your expression.  That keeps the other person listening when they have nothing to look at except their emails. (Oh yes, they’ll be doing that.)
  3. Stand up and walk about.  To help with the above, being on your feet is a good tip.  Your lungs have more space to work and people generally find it easier to express themselves when they are able to move freely.  This is one of the things you can do in a telephone interview that you can’t do in a face to face interview.
  4. Use a quiet room. You don’t need distractions, so decide where you should be and pick the right time for the call.  Make it a room you can move about in if you can.
  5. Use a well-baffled room.  you don’t need to sound like you are talking from inside an oak barrel.
  6. Spread you paperwork out on a large table in a way that it is easy to view.  Then when you’re asked a question it’s easy to find your notes without shuffling papers.  That doesn’t mean prepare scripts, far from it.  These would be the same “aide memoire” type jottings you would possibly take into a face to face interview.
  7. Have a picture of your interviewer.  If you know who will be interviewing you try to find an image of them on the internet.  Linkedin would be my first port of call. Print it off and use it as a focal point during your conversation to remind yourself that you are not standing in a room alone talking out loud, but that you are in conversation with another person and you are trying to build rapport with them.
  8. Smile. People can hear you smile over the phone.  Yes, it’s been said a million times before but it’s true.  It goes back to the stuff about intonation.

Anyway, there you have it.  Sorry I couldn’t add any more tips to make it up to ten, without them really being variations on any of the above, the sort of thing you would do in a face to face interview, or just lame.  Please feel free to send in a response with your own tips to make the list up to ten.

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One Response to Ten Top Telephone Tips

  1. Lots of really useful tips here, Nick – especially no.3 about walking about. Movement helps ideas flow. If I’m preparing for an important conversation, like a phone interview, I step outdoors for a few moments beforehand (or open a window and breath some fresh air, if possible) to clear my head, too.

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