Can You Hear Me Now? 7 Best Practices for Phone Interviews

08.16.2017 | Hattie Schafhausen

From interns to account managers alike, scheduling and facilitating an interview can be a daunting (and butterfly-worthy) process. Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct my first interview with a business professional to gain supplemental information for an article I am writing. After a couple of minor miscommunications with my interviewee, I quickly learned that there is a definite right and wrong way to schedule interviews.

In order to be respectful of everyone participating, I have put together a list of important tips for scheduling and conducting an interview:

 

1. If you haven’t already, sign up for a free account with Freeconferencecall.com. Free Conference Call is a service that provides you (the host) with a unique dial-in number. At the time of the interview, you and the interviewee will call the dial-in, submit the access code and be joined in on the same call. If it is okay with your interviewee, you can even record the call so the content of the interview is easily retrievable as you write your article. 

Pro tip #1: Create a new Outlook signature with the dial-in number and access code so you can easily insert it into emails. 

Pro tip #2: Don’t share your dial-in number with anyone who will be using it as a host. If you are conducting a phone interview and someone else accidentally dials in, it is a breach of the interviewee’s confidentiality.

 

2. If you and a colleague are facilitating the interview together, compare calendars on Outlook to ensure there is a mutually available time. Imagine: You and the interviewee finally find a time for the interview, and once agreed upon, you realize it conflicts with your colleague’s calendar. Avoid this common mistake by always comparing the two internal calendars before suggesting a time to the interviewee. This will not only save time, but significantly reduce frustration from all parties.

 

3. Don’t waste time by sending unnecessary emails back-and-forth such as: “How about this time?” “That doesn’t work, how about now?” “No, that doesn’t work for me.” Instead, pick a time that works for you (and your colleague – see above), block it off on your calendar so you don’t get double booked, and send an email to your interviewee with your suggested time. Right away, send a calendar invite. Even if the time doesn’t work, the calendar invite ensures that at least something is on their calendar, pending acceptance.

 

4. Send a follow-up email the day before the scheduled interview to (1) remind the interviewee in case he/she forgot and (2) to make sure they are still available/to see if the call needs to be rescheduled.

 

5. Have a list of questions prepared so you are in control of the interview and can steer it in the direction that will help you acquire the specific content you need. 

Pro tip: A useful question to ask during every interview is, “Is there any information you want to share that I haven’t asked about?” Nine times out of 10 they’ll tell you a vital piece of information that you would not have previously thought to ask about.

 

6. Dial-in to the interview at least a minute before it is supposed to start. You want to be the one greeting your interviewee, not the other way around. Once connected, thank them and give them an estimate of the length of the interview so you can make sure there are no conflicting commitments. It is also important to have them state their name, title and to explain what they do for their company.

 

7. Don’t be afraid to let conversation flow naturally. Yes, it is important to get your prepared questions answered, but it is equally as important to make the small bits of small talk that will establish a relationship with the interviewee. You never know what kind of opportunity a new connection could present!

 

Overall, embrace the butterflies! Speaking with someone new is naturally nerve-wracking, but it is important to realize that the interviewee is probably significantly more nervous than you! If you are interested in reading further on this topic, check out these great articles from the CPR blog: TV Interviews Best Practices, Best Practices: Skype Interviews and Preparing for the Broadcast Interview.

 

Happy interviewing!

 


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