On a phone interview, you are your voice — or so the interviewer thinks. Research tells us that 93 percent of what we say is communicated by how we say it. The phone interviewer is making an assessment of you based on how your voice is coming across, or “landing” on them. They are forming a picture of you in their mind based on the volume, tone, cadence, and mood of your voice.

In today’s job market with unprecedented numbers of candidates available, phone interviews are the avenue of choice to narrow the candidate pool. In addition, we are using our voices more in teleconferences, on Skype, and in virtual meetings, as the need to cut costs continues.

Have you ever been on a call with someone and their voice “hits you” in such a way that it is difficult to even hear what they are saying? I’m referring to that person whose voice is high-pitched, who speaks quickly and nasally. Or the voice that has a lot of linguistic ticks such as “like,” “you know,” or “ummm.”

You find yourself looking for ways to get off the phone. Their voice outfit is clashing with you. You are paying more attention to counting the ticks then what they are saying? You might say their voice is over-accessorized.

If you think about it, even dogs have a sense of how my voice lands on them — whether they decide to pay attention to it or not. My dog responds better to me when my voice comes from a deep place in my body, delivered slower, and with intention.

Our voice is actually a practiced pattern of communicating that we develop as children. In most cases we model our parent’s voice, as well as their language, mannerisms, and often mood or outlook on life. Instinctively, we learn to respond to someone’s inner state by the tone of their voice — anxious, angry, happy, or sad. We can also hear distrust, resignation, ambition, or stress through their tone.

My work as a national retained search consultant requires an extensive assessment of leadership skills done completely over the phone. I either move someone forward in the interview process or not based solely on how their voice lands on me in a phone interview.

The people I speak with who create a connection through the phone are able to listen intently, respond authentically, and project a balanced cadence in their voice. I’m listening for the extent to which they embody fundamental leadership qualities defined by Richard Strozzi-Heckler in his book “The Leadership Dojo.” I am listening for the qualities of mood, ability to coordinate action, capacity for learning, balance, and how well they work with others. These qualities are observable through their voice and language.

The ability to coordinate action requires that the person be able to connect well with others. I am listening to how well are they connected to me — Are they aware of my time or do their answers just keep going? How well do their responses reflect my questions?

In their responses I am listening for how authentically they recognize others for their accomplishments — or whether they place blame on others. As in balance, I am listening for how well they have managed their commitments at work, their ability to consistently complete projects on time, within budget. Are they balanced between home and work? Are they committed to their career and how does that commitment align with the position for which they are interviewing?

Voice, breath, and mood are the key indicators of how believable someone is over the phone. When we are stressed (as in an interview) our breath is often high, our voice is higher pitched, and we speak more quickly. Oftentimes this happens because our attention is “in our head,” thinking about how we did on the last question or if the questions will get tougher. When we are relaxed our voice tends to reflect our inner state by sounding deeper, slower, and more connected to what is happening around us — thus giving the person on the other end of the line an instant sense of our competence.

When your voice resonates from deep in your torso, your breath is low, and your mood is relaxed you stand a better chance of forming a more compelling image for the interviewer.

The response to the question “Why do you see yourself as a strong candidate for this position?” when spoken at a slower cadence, reflects back the concerns of the job for which you are interviewing, and comes from deep in your body sends a message of congruence to the listener. If your response is delivered quickly, with too many umms or ahhhs, and your breath quick, the image projected is nervousness. You are not really present and therefore not connected with the interviewer.

Actions you can take to project a leadership presence all live in the source from which your voice emanates — your body. By learning to settle your breath low into your body, your voice will automatically come from a more resonate place. The voice will typically come out slower, deeper, with a softer more compelling quality. Taking a few minutes before the interview to consciously notice where your breath is in your body and consciously dropping it lower in your body will help you relax.

By noticing where you hold tension, perhaps dropping your shoulders, relaxing your jaw, and softening your eyes will begin to take you from orienting just from your thoughts and into your body sending a more congruent message.

Amy Castoro will present “The Power of Your Presence” before the central New Jersey chapter of the Association for Women In Science on Wednesday, August 12, at 5:30 p.m. at Miele Princeton Gallery, Route 1 North. Free. For information visit www.awis.org, or E-mail awis_cjc@yahoo.com.

Castoro, who earned her bachelor’s in organizational psychology from Adelphi in 1985, has screened employees for Adecco, Grant Thornton, Disney, and Salveson Stetson, an executive search company.She can be reached at 609-716-6424 or at www.irimigroup.com

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