The internet has changed the world. Opportunities for working from home have grown exponentially creating a field that was almost unheard of just a few years ago. It offers opportunities for people across the globe to network and work for clients without even being in the same country, state or city. All you need is a computer with internet access and you are ready to hang out your shingle and open for business, right? Well, not quite.
In order to acquire work, you still need to interview with potential clients. The only difference is that the interview will be conducted by telephone rather than face to face. This can be one of the most difficult things a virtual assistant must do.
Here are the ten tips for handling a phone interview:
1. Schedule the call during a quiet, uninterrupted time. The interviewer deserves your undivided attention, so do not try to squeeze it in while the baby is napping. A screaming baby in the background will not convey professionalism or your ability to conduct work free of distractions.
2. Dress professionally. This will put you in the right frame of mind for interviewing. As I have said before, just because you can work in your pajamas doesn’t mean you should. The same goes for interviewing. Just because the person on the other end of the phone cannot see you, the way you dress affects your attitude, which is definitely conveyed across the phone line.
3. Be prepared. Treat a telephone interview as you would a face-to-face interview; the only difference is that you do not have to get in your car and drive. Do some research beforehand to find out as much as you can about the business, products, key people, etc. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. Don’t wait for that awkward moment at the end where they ask if you have any questions, and all you can say is, “Um, no, I think you’ve covered everything.”
4. Enhance your interview skills. There are many online resources full of information on honing interviewing skills. Learn the best way to answer the dreaded “Tell me about yourself.” or “What are your strengths?” Expand your research and learn the best ways to answer typical interview questions. Rule number one: always tell the truth. When you have learned the proper way to answer these questions truthfully, write down your responses and have them handy during the interview.
5. Use a land line. While most people have cell phones, and many conduct their business solely on cells, ideally an interview should be conducted on a land line. This eliminates the risk of bad reception, a dropped call, or a dead battery. If a cell phone is your only option, make sure your battery is fully charged and all of your reception bars are showing.
6. Have a copy of your resume and accomplishments handy. People get nervous in interviews. Don’t rely on your memory to pull up names or dates quickly. This is one time when it is fine to have a cheat sheet!
7. Smile. You have probably heard this before, but the person on the other end of the phone can actually ‘hear’ your smile. If you are in a bad mood or otherwise not feeling well, it will come across in your voice. Be enthusiastic (but not over the top bubbly).
8. Speak clearly. Make sure you speak clearly and with correct grammar. If you are a fast talker, slow down. Talk directly into the phone; my husband has a habit of holding the mouthpiece somewhat away from his face when he talks on the phone, leaving me to continually ask him to repeat what he said. Ask a friend if your telephone voice sounds clear and professional. If not, work on it before the interview.
9. Take notes. Have a notebook and several pens available during the interview. Yes, you can type notes directly into your favorite word processing software, but the clackety-clack of the keyboard will be distracting.
10. Ask about next steps. Just as you would do in a face-to-face meeting, at the end of the phone interview, don’t be afraid to ask what the next steps are. The interviewer may have several other candidates to speak with before making a decision. If, for example, you know a decision will not be made for two weeks, you will not sit by the phone waiting and wondering what is going on.
A major part of your business is calling on clients to acquire new work. Master the art of telephone interviewing and your calendar will be full of new projects.
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