Interview skills: Telephone Etiquette

We live in digital times.

With so much attention being placed on online communication, whether it’s via email and social media, it seems that conversing with your actual voice is a lost art. However, answering the telephone and phone etiquette are still a big part of the experience for many businesses. The Hiring process too has been changing with more interviews happening via telephone.

To be able to have an efficient conversation over the phone is an important skill to have. It’s different from both talking to people online and in person.

Online, you have the time to rehearse and practice a really a great answer. You can take the time to think about what you are going to speak before you press “Enter.” When you are talking to someone face to face, you can use and rely on facial expressions and body language to convey your message and also understand what the other is saying. But when you are talking on the phone, it’s all about your voice and the way you speak to them directly. That’s why being aware of the basic rules of telephone etiquette is so important.

Where ever you may be working phone calls are still immensely important. Clients and Customers will call you on the telephone and the conversation they have with you will shape their perception of you and your company. In order to leave a positive impression, here’s how you can step up the way you come across on the telephone.

My friend who is a HR manager validates this with an example of a call she made to a candidate. It was a follow-up call to inform the candidate about interview dates. The first thing she noticed was the strange and odd ring back tone. It’s nice to have music or some words to keep a caller engaged but try to avoid the “Weird”.

When the candidate did take the call he picked up with a harsh sounding, “WHO IS SPEAKING?”. You don’t answer a call with a question! Its rude. The correct way to greet would be a polite “hello” or “hello, this is Satish here”.

She was quite ready to not select the candidate but thought to give him a try. Though disappointed she decided to go ahead. But was quite startled when she heard a lot of background noise, a combination of loud music and people screaming as though in the middle of a party. The candidate was unfazed and shouted into the phone seeming to be okay with conversing in loud tones. The manner in which the candidate attended the call indicated to all concerned his total disregard for the people he was with and the person who was calling him. It is frustrating and irritating to all concerned and not at all acceptable.

The ideal thing to do in such situations is to quickly move to a quiet place or move to the side, take the call with a polite hello. Please remember it is okay to ask for permission to call back if you are in the middle of something. Expecting the caller, in this case a prospective employer to talk in such a situation is rude and not done.

Fortunately, the candidate realized his mistake and called back. But after the wrong start he is nervous and speaks in a hurried manner after all he is aware he has made a bad impression. The thing to do is start afresh. You may be nervous but stay positive. Start by calling back. Mention who you are and the purpose of the call. Apologise for the lapse and explain the situation briefly.

Remember your voice has to ‘do’ the job for you. Put a smile to your face, speak clearly and sound enthusiastic.

It’s a good idea to speak slowly it will give you the time to think and speak well. In situations where you have a job interview practice before hand with a friend. Most importantly Listen well. This will help you to respond correctly. When in doubt politely request the caller to repeat what they said or ask for clarification. Acknowledge what you hear, you could also paraphrase if the conversation has multiple points.

My friend ended her conversation with the candidate with adjectives like “weird”, “rude”, “lacking in common sense”, “anxious”, “lack of clarity”, “low energy”, in mind. She didn’t hire him.

This candidate is an example of a person with no telephone etiquette, not even the basics. I hope all of you will work on developing this and make the difference.

To reiterate the important points: Remember in a telephonic conversation your voice is YOU.

Speak with a smile and speak clearly. Starting with a greeting and identify yourself goes a long way and it is good manners too. Be mindful of your manners – Listen well, Pause to allow the other person to speak. Clarify if you aren’t sure of what you heard. Restate or rephrase to cross check facts. Close the conversation with a ‘Thank you.’

Telephone conversations are links to others. You can make a good impression and create a positive and lasting relationship. Having good phone etiquette is a great starting point. It may land you your first job. So be prepared. Good luck!

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