I don’t hate a lot of things, but when I do, I despise them. Examples include: frizzy hair after curling it meticulously, cold grilled cheese, and terrible selfies. One thing that used to reign supreme on the hate list: professional phone calls. So nerve-wracking! Is it the awkward pauses? Is it the weird introductions? Is it the whole timing thing? (You know, when you unfortunately talk over the other person?!) I honestly have no idea what caused my phone-related anxiety, but I do know that it took a lot of bad calls before I got better at them.
According to The Gaurdian, body language is more powerful than verbal language during a strong interview, so when you can’t rely on your exceptional posture, you have to hone in on your phone skills for a killer call. The great thing about professional calls is that they are very easy to get good at. For every phone-related conundrum… there’s a pretty simple solution.
Situation #1: Awkward pauses throw me off my game.
Solution: Embrace the pause.
We all know that awkward pauses suck. What on earth is the other person thinking about? Pauses normally signify a transition of topic or a short mental break for both parties. Never fear, they’re totally normal! I always use awkward pauses to my own benefit and utilize the moment to compose myself. Take a second to recap on what you just said, and see if you want to add something to it. If you are waiting for a portion of a phone call to start, just remain silent unless you have something essential to add to the conversation. Pauses might also indicate that the other party is writing down what you are saying, so always talk in complete sentences, and make sure to never conclude thoughts on tangents. On a side note, pauses between your own thoughts are expected. Take your time, think through what you want to say, and then say it.
Situation #2: I don’t sound like myself on the phone. (Like, at all!)
Solution: Tone is everything, girl.
I once talked to a recruiter in person who told me that he thought I sounded “uninterested” on the phone. I was shocked. As a bubbly person, I pride myself on being super peppy all the time. How could this not come across on this important call? Then, I realized that it might be because I was using my serious (read: somber) tone. I came across as a different person. I overcame this challenge by doing some vocal exercises that I once learned in a public speaking course in college. As crazy as they sound, they really helped.
- Speak from your diaphragm. (Your voice should be coming from your belly instead of your throat.)
- Record yourself when you are on the phone. Then re-listen and analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
- Smile when you talk. You automatically sound more like yourself.
- Slow down. Give yourself some time to think. It makes you sound less rehearsed and more genuine.
- Filler words like “um,” “literally,” and “like” are to be avoided.
Situation #3: I always lose my train of thought!
Solution: Bullet points are your new best friend.
Before important calls, it’s essential to prep. Get out your favorite stationary and outline what you want to accomplish during the call. Write out what you have to say. The secret to this is that you should NEVER write out complete sentences. Keep your notes short and sweet, and don’t elaborate. This way, you sound organic and thoughtful instead of robotic. Write down key words, and as the call progresses, scratch them off. Prep for phone interviews by writing out questions you know you will be asked and making a list of key words for each question.
Situation #4: I choke on my own words. (So embarrassing!)
Solution: Use verbiage you’re familiar with.
One of the good things about a professional phone call is that the dynamic is a little more lax. Pretend you are talking to an older colleague, and keep your language smart but casual. Use words you are comfortable pronouncing, and be able to pronounce key words. If your speed is causing you to swallow your words, make sure to practice what you are going to say to a loved one. Let them comment on your pace.
Situation #5: I hate to get stumped by questions that I am unprepared for.
Solution: Practice makes perfect.
We’ve all been there: your phone call is going really well, then you get that weird question from left field. Not fun. The fix: read a list of common interview questions, and practice each one regularly. Practice in the car, practice in the shower, practice before bed. The more you understand the way you structure answers naturally, the more authentic you sound during the call. If the question is one of those “personality” questions, don’t overthink it.
What trips you up the most during professional phone calls? How do you tackle awkward pauses during a call?