Humor is just another defense against the universe.
– Mel Brooks
They’re lodged in the back of your throat. Ready to sabotage your entire career.
You go over your notes, your questions. You make sure you’ve cleared enough time to thoroughly discuss the topic. And you’ve gone to the bathroom to avoid, uh, uncomfortable issues.
But they’re still there.
Phone interview nerves. (insert scary movie scream)
When I first set out to plant my flag in the professional world, phone interview nervousness often got the best of me. To more easily explore higher octaves, my voice would unpack all intelligent words and leave them at Base Camp Let’s Sound Stupid.
That nervousness can feel like a cold, hard wad of paperclips sitting on the back of your tongue.
Nervousness is a cute little term for fear. It’s a quavering manifestation of unknown disasters that race through your mind as you simultaneously predict horrible outcomes and figure out how to avoid them.
Oh the pressure!
But here’s the great thing about phone interviews– you can get away with stuff that you normally couldn’t in person. Stuff that can take the edge off.
Talk to the toy
Place a favorite toy – preferably one with a charming face – next to your speaker phone. While you talk, looking at that friendly face helps keep you from imagining the facial expressions of a faceless voice on the other end of the line. The one that your imagination might believe is judging you.
For strained phone calls with clients you don’t want, I recommend Mr. Potato Head. No harm done if you rip his arms off.
Use the ‘write’ tools
When necessary (like interviewing a source), you’ll record your interviews or type your notes. But, if need to jot down notes, good writing instruments can help reduce stress. (If you doubt this, try using a pen that hurts your fingers or doesn’t work and see how frustrated you get.)
Some people prefer executive-style pens. Some go utilitarian. When you’re writing during a phone interview, your writing instruments are part of your physical working environment. So choose ones that can take make you more comfortable. I prefer brightly colored, bobbly-topped, light up or plumed pens. It’s hard to get too serious when I’m writing with a fluffy, purple flower.
Post a quote
Place a favorite quote where it’s easy to glance at while you’re on the phone. Just taking a quick peek at it from time to time can help you stay grounded when nerves threaten. The right quote serves quick reminder that it will be okay.
Choose a short quote. It just needs to help you through a frazzled moment, not define your place in the universe.
Not everything works for everybody. I’ve conducted my best phone interviews wearing Tinker Bell pajamas and bunny slippers – not everyone’s flavor. But these are some ways I’ve found to curb my phone interview nerves. Or at least put a leash on them until I hang up.
What works for you?