Whether it’s a phone interview or just having to ring people during your internship, The Phone can be pretty scary. What if you gurgle? What if you say the wrong name? What if you fall down a well? A well that’s on fire? We put together some top tips from phone whizz Martin Spink who trains people at the O2 Telefónica and Capita call centre in Bury to help avoid any of these things happening.

Practise, practise, practise

Run a mock telephone interview with a friend or family member, so the first time you pick up a phone you’re not a nervous wreck. “I ran a communication skills workshop for a local youth group, and we got advisors to play the part of customers, then the guys sat in a room and had to deal with their problems,” says Martin. “It was really useful and confidence-building, because the only way you’re going to improve is by doing it!” It’s also important to pick mates who will give you honest feedback. “There’s no point having someone help you who will always say how great you are when, actually, you sound like a toilet flushing,” he adds, succinctly. So that’s your nan out, then.

Record yourself (ugh)

Nobody likes listening to themselves drone/screech/blab on (delete where applicable) but it’s vital to figure out how you can improve. “I worked with a guy recently who says ‘actually’ in every sentence, even if it doesn’t make any sense,” Martin says. “If you record yourself on a call and listen back by yourself, then you’re one step closer to getting better and gaining more confidence.” For anyone interested, my verbal tics are “kind of” and “sort of” and, while talking to Martin, I caught myself six times.

Sit, stand and dress like you would if it were face-to-face

So that rules out lying in bed in your pants, then. “If you’re doing an over-the-phone job interview, why not dress up in a suit and sit in your chair upright as if you’re some sort of yuppie businessman from the 80s? It’s hardcore, but but it’s all about getting yourself in the right frame of mind,” advises Martin. If you feel the part, and look the part, then you’re going to sound the part and, while the person on the other end of the line won’t have any idea, you’ll feel loads more confident.

Make sure you have signal

An obvious one, but something that people always forget. “If you’re on an important call then don’t go somewhere with dodgy signal, like my living room,” says Martin. “And watch out for background noise.” You don’t want a chat with a potential employer to be ruined by  your mum yelling about the fact you’ve eaten all the yoghurt again. Oh, and stop eating all the yoghurt, OK?

Speak up and don’t be a robot

While you should definitely relax and try and be yourself, a lot of people find themselves slipping into weird vocal habits once they’re on a call. “I would try and avoid being quiet, monotonous and repetitive. Don’t be too loud, but it’s important to be heard! And a monotone sounds like there’s no life in your voice – imagine you’re telling a story to a child or a friend and keep those inflections.” advises Martin. See the above recording yourself tip for kicking any weird, like, repetition, ummm, habits.

Be prepared for the Dreaded Voicemail Situation (DVS)

On the phone you should always be aware that there are two options: they’ll pick up, or you’ll have to leave a voicemail. Be prepared for the latter so when that beep comes, you don’t go “OOOH I wasn’t expecting that er hi it’s Stevie!” Especially if your name isn’t Stevie. “Keep voicemails brief and know what you’re going to say beforehand: I usually do a quick intro, explain why I’m ringing and leave a number,” says Martin. “In fact, it’s also a good idea to give people a timescale, so they know what’s going to happen. Maybe try ‘Can you give me a call back and failing that, I’ll try again tomorrow’ after you’ve given them your contact details.” Then they know how to get in touch with you, and what you’re going to do if they don’t. It’ll also nudge them because nobody likes being chased.

If you liked this article, why not take a look at…