Friday, June 10, 2011

Job Hunt: Telephone Interview Success

Recently I have heard stories from more and more musicians about their experiences with telephone interviews.  Whether you are auditioning for a performance gig or a teaching position, it is highly probable that you will need to discuss your skills, ideas, and experience with another person before meeting them in person.  Successful telephone interviews are essential to getting to the next round of the interview and can be extremely daunting.  Here are a few things I have learned from doing various phone interviews over the past few months.

  1. Prepare your environment.  Since no one will see us, it is easy to think that the physical surroundings are not important.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Not only does a quiet setting allow one to maintain a level of professionalism and thoughtfulness, an appropriate situation provides the means to present yourself in the best light.  Make sure to have a copy of your current resume and the job description close at hand.  Material to make notes during your conversation may also be helpful to keep you focused and on task.
  2. Anticipate standard questions and prepare responses.  Phone interviews are stressful enough. You can alleviate unnecessary anxiety by preparing answers to questions that will arise in almost any interview situation.  These questions may include a brief introduction of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you handle collaboration and/or conflict with colleagues.  I have found it helpful to briefly outline my responses to these questions in order to refer to them during the dialogue.  This advance preparation allows you to rest mentally while showing your interest in the position through your preparation.
  3. Do a little research.  Take the time to investigate the institution you are talking to and learn a little bit about them.  An informed interviewee is able to answer questions in regards to the specific situation at the institution. 
  4. Have a glass of water.  Nerves combined with lots of talking produce a dry mouth.  Whether you drink it or not, you'll be glad to have the water close at hand.....just in case you need it.
  5. Listen. Nothing is worse than answering a question that was not asked.  Listen carefully to each question, make notes as necessary -- especially as interview questions can sometimes be quite involved -- and answer the question asked directly and succinctly.  If you are not clear on the meaning of the question, feel free to ask for clarification before launching into a diatribe.
  6. Ask questions.  At the end of most interviews, you will be given the opportunity to ask questions of the interviewer.  By asking questions, you signal that you have thought about the position and the process in advance and are genuinely interested in the possibility of joining the team.  Questions might include a request for information about the music department's size, opportunities for private instruction in the community, community music organizations, and the anticipated timeline of the hiring process.
By no means am I an expert at phone interviews.  I'm learning as I wind my way through the application/interview process.  I'd love to hear your suggestions to add to my list of tips. Leave your ideas in the comments below.