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You've reached the final few minutes before your phone's supposed to ring, with a potential employer on the other end. It's been easy enough to avoid human interaction until this point: All you had to do was submit your resume online, answer a few questions via email and coordinate a phone interview. Now, that day and time have come – and your hands are shaking, your chest is tight and your mind is racing with rehearsed turns of phrases and ideas for how to respond to basic job interview questions.
You have phone anxiety. Yes, it's a real thing. No, you're not alone. And here's the best part: You can beat it.
Reasons for Phone Anxiety
People like to throw around statistics about nonverbal communication, and the bottom line is that there are no firm numbers regarding how much of communication is actually wordless. But psychologists agree that verbal communication is only a small part of how we share meaning and ideas – the rest comes from facial expressions, body language and gesture, according to a 2017 report from the Cut. When you're on the phone, you miss out on all that nonverbal communication, and you get a much flimsier idea of what the other person is truly saying, let alone their reactions to what you're saying.
Without a nod of the head to encourage you to keep speaking, or a flick of the eyebrows to indicate interest or disagreement, you miss out on a huge portion of the conversation with your prospective employer. On top of that, nonverbal communication usually helps fill silences during in-person conversations – over the phone, however, a period of silence can mean anything. The phone not only extinguishes the possibility of reading body language to gauge the other person's reaction, but places way more pressure on your verbal communication skills.
Of course it makes you anxious.
Conquer Your Nerves
You may not like the solution to phone anxiety, but here it is: practice. Psychologists call this method "exposure therapy," and the idea behind it is that repeated confrontation with situations you typically avoid will help quell your fear of those situations, according to AnxietyBC. In preparation for a phone interview, get on the phone as often as possible. Call restaurants or medical offices to make reservations, rather than booking them online. When you would normally ask your colleagues basic questions over email, give them a ring instead. Get your friends on the phone to make plans or have conversations, rather than relying on text messages.
Repeated exposure to phone conversations should eventually calm your nerves about the whole ordeal. You might also consider consciously restructuring the way you think about phone calls: Remind yourself that slip-ups during a phone call account for much smaller mistakes in the big picture than they may seem in the moment. And you can even take advantage of being invisible during your phone conversation: write out a list of talking points to keep on-hand during the call, or even an entire script, if it makes you feel better. The person on the other end will never know.
Phone Interview Tips
Of course, getting on the phone with a prospective employer is always going to be more nerve-wracking than talking with a friend, familiar colleague or restaurant hostess. It will help to calm your nerves and perform better in the interview if you approach the call with a strategy in mind, according to Indeed's career guide. Consider the following tips to knocking your phone interview out of the park:
Print out the job description, highlight the important things and keep it in front of you during the call. If the position listing calls for applicants with stellar skills in a certain area, highlight that portion and remember to mention it during the interview. Do some research on the company and the position in question, as well, and make notes of any important information you encounter.
Prepare to answer common interview questions. Most recruiters and potential employers kick off their phone interviews with a few questions they ask everyone, so it'll help to know how to answer them. Such questions might include:
- What do you want from your next job?
- When are you available to start this position, if it's offered to you?
- Why are you looking to leave your current position?
- What's important to you regarding company culture?
- What are your salary expectations?
The person interviewing you will most likely give you time at the end of the conversation to ask any questions you may have. Prepare some questions ahead of time, but keep a pen and paper on you during the call, as well, to jot down any questions that come to mind over the course of the interview.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.
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