Tenacious Tillie and the Telephone Interview

By: Linda Van Valkenburgh
Recently, one of my clients was relating a story to me about a position she was applying for.  I like to refer to her as “Tenacious Tillie.” She had sent in her application online, snail mailed it and started following up with the HR Department.  She did not wear her pink bunny slippers and sweats, but rather her favorite professional business outfit as she called to get into the professional mode for her job search. She was told five times to call back.  The sixth time, she was told that the position was on hold.  Seeing that the position was still advertised, Tillie called back again, pleasant but firm, smiling through the phone and was told by the actual interviewer to call back to schedule an in-person interview. She called back the next time and the interview was scheduled for her to appear in person.  There was a small interchange of pleasantries as the scheduling was being done. While all of this was going on, she did not realize that this was actually her telephone interview!   Some people commented to her that her persistence was going to be viewed poorly by the interviewer.  In actuality, her persistence is what landed her the interview. Had she not conducted herself well on the phone, she would not have been granted the interview, as all of her prior interactions were actually the start of the interview process.  What does this mean for you, the job seeker?

The paragraph above brings to the forefront several things. First of all, Tillie had a great attitude even though she was facing the frustration of continual rejection.  Attitude is a key component that is important to address during career transition.  One must work at maintaining a positive attitude and bring it with you to everything you do, especially the interviewing process.  Remember, that the interviewing process starts with the telephone interview.  As you prepare for the telephone interview, you need to remember to work on your positive attitude, as it will come through to the person on the other end of the phone.  People do not want to work with a grump or someone who cannot deal with frustration.  Identify the things that help keep you in the positive and keep doing them.  Is it a walk in the fresh air, yoga, connecting with friends, running around the neighborhood?  Whatever it is, make the time and exercise the self-discipline to do it, as you will reap the rewards in many ways.

Another concept that Tillie’s story brings out is the fact that Tillie’s tenacity served her in good stead and landed her the interview.  While most people would not have called so many times, this is exactly what needs to be done sometimes.  You cannot attach emotion to it and be concerned about what the hiring decision maker will think.  Many times, they become involved in other things and cannot deal with the position at the time, so they keep putting you off.  Forget about what they will think and keep at it. Tenacity pays off where others give up.  Also, remember that companies like to hire people who won’t give up but keep trying.

Another important point is that Tillie did not realize that the telephone interview process started when she spoke to the HR person about scheduling her interview.  Beware of the hidden interview.  It lurks around many corners and has many facets to it.  It can happen before the actual interview starts on the phone or in person.  It can happen while you are waiting to be brought in for your interview from the reception area.  Some interviewers include the report of the receptionist and his or her observations and interactions with you.  Just as I have said in the past “You will never not network again,” I also am saying to be aware that interviewing can happen in places outside of the formal office.  Put your best foot forward so that you are the natural choice for the position.  Exhibit your positive attitude, manners and self-confidence the minute you speak on the telephone and enter the building.  You never know who is riding the elevator with you.

I often joke about the pink bunny slippers and sweats, but, in reality, it is important to truly exude professionalism.  What better way to do this than to dress for success! Go through the effort of putting on your professional work clothes to help you feel that you are in the process of doing an interview, which you are.  The telephone interview is saving you the time and expense of going to the company.

Tillie scheduled her interview and thought about what else she had to do to prepare. First, she determined where she was going to sit to speak on the phone.  She picked an area that was quiet, with a place that allowed her to sit down and keep her materials at her fingertips.  “Materials!” you ask. The materials required to be prepared include your resume, a list of questions you have thought about to ask the interviewer, paper for note taking, several pens, tissues, and an installed landline phone and instructions on how to disable the call waiting feature on your telephone.  You want to make sure that use a landline, instead of your cell phone so you don’t sound like the old Verizon commercial, “Can you hear me now?!!” Tillie also took off her watch and placed it on the table so that she could pace herself for the duration of the call. At the outset, many recruiters will advise the length of time the interview will take. In this way, you can pace yourself and not worry about the time fleeting away with you trying to play catch-up.

The phone rang, and Tillie picked it up on the second or third ring. The first ring shows desperation and the last ring, indifference. Yes, the interviewer notices the ring you picked up on.  The initial sound of your voice is also an integral part of your interview.  Make sure that you have exercised your voice so that it is limber, especially if your interview is first thing in the morning.  Sounding like a croaking frog takes away from the brilliant answers you have for the questions asked by the interviewer.

Surprised by the number of details that need to be considered when preparing for a telephone interview?  You can explore this topic much more in depth by reading the book “The Official Phone Interview Handbook” written by my friend and colleague, Paul Bailo.  Paul goes into depth on all of the details to contemplate as you prepare for your telephone interview.  It is a valuable resource.  You can find information about this book on the Affiliates page of my website.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this helps.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Every Success!

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One thought on “Tenacious Tillie and the Telephone Interview

  1. I found this article to be very well written and informative. In this time of economic distress with so many persons applying for the same position, it is great to have an edge. I will cetainly pass this along.

    Like

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