The first step to getting a PR job these days is acing the phone interview.
Many PR firms and corporate HR departments have added phone interviews to save time when vetting candidates for available positions. Losing the ability to create an immediate connection through face-to-face contact can be a challenge.
However, there are ways to generate enough interest and intrigue to make sure you’re the one who moves to the second round of the process.
Here are some tips that will help you ace your next phone interview:
If you’ve ever experienced stage fright, you know that your voice can do some strange things when you’re stressed out or tense. The same thing can happen if you have anxiety before an important phone call. Make sure your breathing is steady before hopping on the call because it’s easy for someone else to pick up on what you’re feeling through your tone.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Find a quiet place to take the phone call. If you’re doing the call from home, move to an area of the house where you won’t be bothered by relatives, children and/or pets. Because even the faintest cat meow can be heard on the other end of the phone and the last thing you’d want is for the executive to get distracted by any background noise.
Also, if the call is planned in advance, don’t do it from a coffee shop or a busy sidewalk.
3. Do Your Research
Before the call begins make sure you have all of your job-related materials in front of you so that if something comes up, your references are ready to go. Job-related materials could include: your resume, the job description, writing samples, information about the company, a bio for the executive you’re speaking with, etc.
If you have any visual aids or digital links that are relevant, send those to the executive 5-10 minutes before the interview starts (unless they request this information sooner).
4. Guard Your Energy and “SMONE”
If someone can tell when you’re nervous over the phone, they can also tell when you’re excited and/or passionate about the job you’re interviewing for. So just like Tyra’s infamous smize, you should practice “smoning,” or smiling through the phone.
Standing up for the duration of the call can also help you sound more authoritative and on point. Make sure the person on the other end can feel your energy.
5. Ask Awesome Questions
Interviews conducted over the phone usually end much faster than in-person interviews because of the lack of opportunity to build a strong connection. But, if you’re interesting, engaging and knowledgeable about the industry or job you can keep them hanging on for a longer period of time.
Have a list of prospective questions written or typed up before the call that you can use throughout the interview. These can be questions about the job, the executive’s career and/or her time at the company or general industry questions.
6. Have a Clear Understanding of Next Steps & Reiterate Your Interest in the Job
Before the call ends, make sure you have a clear understanding of the next step in the process. If you don’t know, ask.
What is the next step in the process? How close are you guys to making a final decision? Do you need any more information about anything we talked about today? Is there a writing test? Is it okay to follow-up with you in a week?
Once you know what’s next, reiterate your interest in the job and make it clear why you’re the perfect candidate for the position.
7. Send a Handwritten Thank You Note
An emailed thank you note works just fine, but if you’re really looking to set yourself apart from the rest a handwritten note will do the trick. I usually do both.
I send a quick note the same day as the call and write out a longer note of gratitude that I mail within a week’s time. Regardless of the interview’s outcome, this simple gesture will put you on the short list of people who are remembered for future opportunities.
And in this business, being top-of-mind is extremely important.