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How to ace a conference call interview

It’s becoming increasingly common for employers to choose to carry out interviews on conference calls, so getting savvy on how to show your full potential over the phone is a good idea. Of course, general tips for job interviews still apply, but teleconferences have their own etiquette which you should wise up to.

Start from the employers perspective

There’s already a lot of advice for hosting a conference call which, although not directly relevant to you, you might want to take a look at to begin with. It can give you a really good idea of what to expect, particularly those pieces with tips for employers who will hold interviews over the phone. Reading up on these things can offer you a little piece of mind and help you get started with proper preparation, armed with the knowledge of what your potential employer could be looking out for.

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Make a great first impression

As in a normal interview, your first impression really counts, and tends to be lasting. Make absolutely sure that you dial into the conference call room on time, or answer the phone the first time that they call you – teleconferencing from mobiles is popular and easy to do, so you could be anywhere during your interview! Hopefully, the interviewers will choose a conference call bridge which is really easy to use, but just in case, try to familiarise yourself with how their chosen one works so that you don’t encounter any last minute difficulties.

Note: If you’ve been given a number to dial at a specific time, try dialling before your interview to see how it works. This will help you understand how the conferencing process will work for the real thing.

For that reason, choosing your surroundings is really important. You don’t want to be in a really noisy area, as this will be distracting for both you and your interviewers. Aim for a quiet, peaceful and stress-free environment where you can talk calmly and with the confidence that you won’t have any unexpected interruptions.

You will probably be expected to introduce yourself in some way, as a way to break the ice on the conference call, so think in advance about things you might like to say. While you might like to think of a couple of more personal details to share, make absolutely sure that you keep it professional, and short.

Know what to do

There’s a lot that can go wrong in a virtual meeting, sometimes only slightly and sometimes disastrously. That’s no reason to worry, though, as with the right preparation you can make sure that you avoid a conference call disaster.

One really common, but really damaging mistake is accidental use of the mute button. The mute button can, at times, be your friend – if your dog suddenly starts barking or somebody is incessantly ringing your doorbell, and it’s not your turn to talk, then great. But when you’re being asked questions and expected to give full answers while thinking on your feet, long, unexplained silences are definitely not desirable. So make sure you learn to use your mute button properly to avoid disaster.  Generally, you will only ever use the mute button in a conference call interview if there is an unexpected disturbance at your end, or if you have been asked to mute yourself for whatever reason.

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There are a few things not to do on a teleconference to ensure that you impress your potential employers. As long as you read up on these, you really shouldn’t have any difficulties relating to holding the interview via the phone.

Be aware of the employers responses and feelings

Having virtual interviews can be a little disconcerting for somebody used to always having faces sitting across a desk from them. We learn to rely so heavily on non-verbal behaviour as indicators of our interviewers feelings that some people can feel quite lost when these are absent. But that really doesn’t have to be the case. You can very quickly and easily learn how to understand vocal cues so that you don’t accidentally sound like you’re lying or appear bored when really you’re just nervous. It’s also a great way to get an idea of how your interviewers are responding to your answers, which could help you to work out what they’re looking for in their applicants and how you’re doing so far.

It’s easy to be tempted to quickly look something up if you’re asked a question you can’t quite remember the answer to, but if interviewers hear you tapping at your keyboard during the conference call, they’ll think you’re at best disinterested, and at worst dishonest. So keep your hands still and let your head do all the work – it’s not all what you know, it’s how you use the knowledge you do have. In a face to face interview, you wouldn’t be able to whip out your phone and do a quick Google search, so you shouldn’t treat an audio interview any differently. And your interviewers will almost certainly be onto you.

Use the distance to your advantage

Being on a conference call means that there is a new distance between you and the people interviewing you. Put simply, they can’t see you. Make this work for you by having any notes that you think might be useful in front of you. It’s also definitely advisable for you to have a copy of your CV, as there is a good chance that you will be asked questions about it, and you don’t want your forgetfulness or nerves to create the impression that you may have fudged some of the details. Bear in mind that your interviewers will almost certainly have your CV printed out and in front of them whilst they are on the phone to you!

As with any interview, it’s always a good idea to have a couple of questions prepared for you to ask as the interview draws to a close. Don’t think that just because it’s over the phone there won’t be time for small talk or questions. If they ask whether you have any, and you can only ‘um’ and ‘ah’ while you try to think of something to say, you’ll seem uninterested and uninvested in the company. As it’s on a conference call, you can even have these written down in front of you, so there really is no excuse not to be ready!

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