Sunday, May 23, 2010

Monday Writers Craft Online: Phone Interviews

Interviewing people over the phone is tough because you can't see the other person.  This means you're losing all that important body language stuff. 

If you're cold calling it's even harder because people on the other end of a phone can hang up much more easily than they can walk away from you.  So it's important to establish good relations from the first moment.

Last Wednesday a man calling from Telekom gave an excellent example of how to screw up a cold call:

(phone rings)
Me: Hello, Ellen Whyte speaking.
Him: Who is this?
Me: (Irritable at being interrupted before a deadline and thinking "why don't you listen, bozo?  you're the one calling me!") This is Ellen Whyte.  Who is this?
Him: Are you Ellen Whyte?  I need to talk to Ellen Whyte.
Ellen: (Really pissed off and Speaking Distinctly) Yes, that's me.  And you are? 
Him: I need some information.  Erm, yes.  Do you have time to talk to me?
Ellen: (now thoroughly pissed off and suspecting this man is a tele-salesman for some finance scam or horribly overpriced gym) Depends.  Who are you and what do you want?
Him: It's about your phone bill.  I want to know why your phone bill is low.
Ellen: (really pissed off now) And who exactly are you?
Him: I'm from Telekom.
Ellen: And I guess you don't have a name, huh?
Him: Errrmmmmm..... 

He never did tell me his name and I wasn't inclined to think why my bills are low these days. (although later on I realised it's probably because I'm using Skype a lot)

If that Telekom man had any training he would have started off like this:

(phone rings)

Me: Hello, Ellen Whyte speaking.
Him: Hello, my name Dino, I'm calling from Telekom's billing department.  Do you have a moment to talk to me?

Then I would have been grumpy inside thanks to the deadline but polite on the outside.  And I would have thought about why my bill is low these days, and I would have told him.

Getting information over the phone is all about trust and give and take.  When you are open about who you are and what you want, people on the other side feel empowered.  And that makes them much more likely to talk to the stranger on the other end of the phone.  The more openly you say what you are and what you want, the more likely the other person will reciprocate.

So: top 3 phone rules when cold calling:

1. Start by saying who you are: full name, job/company etc.
2. If the person hasn't said their name, or you missed it, say who you are calling for and why.  (If you're going through secretaries etc, saying why can get you lots of good info as in "she's out, why not send me an email and I'll tell her when she returns" etc)
3. When you get to your prey, ask if this is a good time.  If not, ask when you can call back.  The more relaxed the other person is, the more likely they'll cooperate.

In my opinion the fine art of the phone interview has been perfected by professional tele-sales people.  If you want to be able to conduct a good interview over the phone, go find yourself a successful tele-sales person for good tips.

If you find this interesting, let me know and I can share some more telephone interview tricks next week.

For those who came to the Net research talks on Saturday, here's my suggestion page for finding the answers to the Advanced challenges.


Katnip Lounge said...

Me & Hubby usually have lots of fun with cold callers, we enjoy giving them a hard time! it's mean, but they DID inturrupt our dinner...heh heh.

Anya said...

Hallo Ellen
wanneer bel je mij eens hihihihi...
Fijne zondag
en knuffels voor iedereen


Boo-Bah AKA Iris said...

Wwe get phone calls from sales people sometimes as late as nine or ten at night. I think that is way too late to call.

Mishkat said...

I liked your hints! Although I think the easiest cold calls to make are when you really believe that you have something that could actually benefit the person on the other end (as opposed to "your phone bill is low" - what is that?!)

We get a lot of cold calls here but your Telekom example is one of the worst ones I've heard - just plain rude! I never answer anyone that says "Who is this?" except by saying "Who is calling?"

~CovertOperations78~ said...

My brothers and I used to give out really dodgy information to cold-callers. Sometimes I would say, "Can you give me a moment to wash my knife, I just stabbed someone" or "I don't live here, I am a robber, I just broke into this house 10 mins ago".

Sometimes salespeople cold-call and start bleating information that they are obviously reading out of a card in really poor English. I then recommend that they sign up for my parents' English tuition classes.