4 Ways to tighten Up Your Phone Game

At what point did phone conversations become scary? When I was in middle school (yes when I thought I was totally cool because I had a pager) - wayyyy before email - the only way to connect after curfew was on the landline. There were nights I would stay up on the phone for FOUR HOURS. Seriously, what is there to talk about for that long!? At some point though, talking on the phone got awkward for me. I'll admit it - I would rather email someone any day of the week than call them. On the occasion where the phone is appropriate you better believe I'm praying it will hit voicemail before someone has the chance to answer. Does this sound familiar?

It makes no sense at all really. I love talking in front of groups of people and would consider myself an extrovert. But I totally dread those 10 seconds I have to be "on" when calling someone who doesn't have my number in their phone. It brings me back to my college days selling ad space in the campus newspaper. Cold calling just ain't fun.

phone interviews
phone interviews

Here's the thing though: you have to suck it up and get comfortable with phone conversations.

Millennials get a bad rap for how they conduct themselves professionally. I chalk this up to an over-generalization and a few bad eggs that ruined it for the rest of us. Unfortunately though, because of this you have to make sure you're extra, extra on point to make a good impression in an employer's eyes.

Here's a few suggestions to better prep for those phone convos:

1. Record a professional voicemail

Now that iPhones are in the hands of every other person, many forget to personalize their voicemail. It happens more often than not when I hear, "You have reached XXX-XXX-XXXX. The caller you are trying to reach is not available at this time...." I think I might have dialed the wrong number. Don't lead anyone to believe this. Record a short greeting with your name and when you intend to get back to them. And for heaven's sake, please don't let your voicemail get full. Nothing sends a worse signal when someone is trying to get in contact and can't even leave you a message.

2. Kill the background noise

Yes, it might make sense to answer every call that comes in. But if you're out in a noisy place or in the car and distracted, just let it go to voicemail. You're not going to be giving the caller your full attention and you might even risk giving off a bad impression. Wait until you're in an environment where you can converse freely without noise or distractions.

3. Stand up

This might not work for everyone but I feel much more engaged in a call when I'm standing up. Yes, I also pace, but it feels more like an in-person conversation for me when I'm standing vs. sitting.

4. Listen before thinking of a response

One of the things that makes talking on the phone hard is that you don't get to see the other person's body language. That can make it hard to know when it's appropriate to respond. It's easy to unintentionally cut people off, which is a huge no-no when you're talking to a prospective employer. It's best to listen first and then take the time to construct your answer. If you spend time just focused on getting your message across, you're going to miss what the other person is saying. It's okay to take a full second or two to gather your thoughts and respond calmly.

No, it may not be our favorite method of communication but if you conduct yourself professionally through this channel, you will stand out among your peers . What are some other things that you practice to make phone conversations easier?