Every now and then, clients will insist that you take part in a phone or Skype interview. These are essential to some clients, and the job won’t progress without them. So, it pays to make sure that you are prepared.
1. Project a Professional Image
It’s crucial that you always project a professional image to your clients. Keep in mind that your conference phone call or Skype interview is an opportunity to make a good first impression. Use your name or your business name as your Skype user name for any business calls, keeping it separate from your personal user name which may not sound as professional.
An increasing number of people are working from home offices, but that doesn’t mean you can take a Skype call in your pajamas and curlers. Dress as you would for an actual interview. Don’t make the mistake of only dressing professionally from the waist up and then be embarrassed when you stand up to get something and realize your client just saw your cut-off shorts.
Make eye contact with your client during the call. To make eye contact during a Skype call you must look into the camera, and not necessarily at the client’s image on the screen. Avoid looking around, which could be perceived as boredom. Lean into the camera so that your face and the upper half of your body are visible. This will ensure that your body language is visible to the client.
2. Position Notes and Materials Within Reach
- Gather as much about the client and project as you can prior to the interview so you have an idea of how your services will complement their project.
- Give some thought to what you could offer and be prepared to present several different service levels to the client depending on how the interview proceeds.
- Have your resume and/or any documents that represent your business ready to send to the client during the call.
- Consider having some examples of previous work that you can share with your potential client, demonstrating your style and level of service.
- Put any written notes within easy reach so you won’t be shuffling through papers and trying to find your notes during the interview.
- Have a pen and paper ready or be prepared to record the session, to document details that are discussed during the call.
3. Prevent Technical Difficulties
The progress of technology is great and it enables us to do so much more remotely than we ever could before. But technology does have its glitches and many times the problems are unpredictable. There are several things you can do in advance so that your interview goes off without a hitch.
Prior to the Interview Day
First, you absolutely must practice using the technology several times. You need to become as comfortable as you can with how it works and how you look or sound to someone on the other side. Get a friend or colleague to practice using Skype with you a couple days prior to your interview. You should become familiar enough with the microphone and camera that you can look and sound professional to the person helping you. Ask them for feedback and then practice again. Even the technology experts run into technical difficulty when dealing with Skype and even conference call systems. Technology glitches are simply unpredictable and sometimes unavoidable.
You should also have a backup method of communication ready. For a Skype interview, you should know how to reach your client via the phone, while making sure they can reach you by phone. For a conference call interview, ask for an alternate number or a landline number in the event you are disconnected.
The Day of the Interview
Even if you have done a dry run several days in advance, it’s always a good idea to run a test prior to the scheduled conference call or Skype interview. Sometimes technical difficulties can occur without notice. Test your camera and microphone and fully charge your laptop to ensure everything goes smoothly.
4. Prepare Your Environment
- Make sure you have proper lighting
- Clean and organize your desk
- Check the background within the camera view to ensure a professional look
- Minimize distractions, especially background noise
- Consider using a headset to further reduce noise interference
- Shut down any other apps or programs that you won’t be using so that your Skype call is less likely to lag or freeze.
5. Communicate Clearly and Positively
Remember that when doing an interview by phone it is sometimes difficult to tell for sure when someone is finished speaking. This is especially true if there is more than one person on the call. As the service provider or consultant, you should listen more than you speak. Ask questions that will help you determine what the client’s needs are and what their apprehensions might be when using your services.
Answer questions clearly and as optimistically as possible but do not promise more than you can deliver. If something is not clear, ask the client to clarify their meaning. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, instead of saying “I don’t know” simply say “I will check on that and get back to with the details”.
Don’t be afraid of silence. Speak slowly and count silently to five before you begin speaking again. This gives your client time to digest your information and formulate their response. By doing this, you are will be less likely to be perceived as interrupting them or cutting them off.
Make notes about action items or decisions and review these with the client near the conclusion of the call or in an email that is sent shortly after the call ends. Try to cement what the next step should be before ending the call. Something as simple as “Okay, I will call you on Monday as we discussed” or “I look forward to your feedback after you’ve reviewed my proposal.” Both of these statements make it clear what the next step is and who is responsible for initiating the next contact.
In most cases, once you have become comfortable with doing virtual conference calls via phone or Skype, it will become second nature. And typically your client may be just as apprehensive as you are about the technology. The better job you do at ensuring things run smoothly, the better impression you will make with your potential client. Preparing for client calls in advance is half the battle when it comes to presenting yourself and your services professionally.