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Top Ten Tips for Job Seekers to Ace Phone Interviews

Many job seekers have a misconception that phone interviews are easy.  There isn’t the added anxiety of choosing the right shoes or tie, getting stuck in traffic, or having enough copies of your resume handy.  But just because there aren’t these worries to deal with, phone interviews shouldn’t be taken lightly—they are often challenging in their own way.  In fact, bombing on the phone often means there will be no chance to stress about pinstripes.  Job candidates won’t get to the next step unless they effectively prepare for and conquer the phone interview. 

One reason phone interviews are becoming more and more prevalent is because they give employers the opportunity to screen prospects to see if candidates sound as good as they look on paper—before committing to a face-to-face meeting.  What can job seekers do to help ensure that they succeed in making a great first impression over the phone?  The following are ten tips to acing your next phone interview:

1. Be old fashioned and find a landline.

Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, do not conduct phone interviews from a cell phone.  Wireless service is too unreliable and can result in dropped calls, echoing, interference, and background noise.  Regardless of your choice of phone, you should make sure the interviewer can hear you clearly.  You don’t want a good interview spoiled by a bad connection.

2. Think “free.”

You want to take the call in an area where you can speak freely, away from distractions.  If you call from work, make sure you are able to speak without restraint.  You don’t want to give shortened or code answers because you’re afraid your boss or coworkers might overhear.  If you’re at home, be sure to avoid disruptions.  Turn off the TV, send the kids to the neighbors and deactivate the call-waiting feature on your phone. 

3. Be prepared.

Have your resume and the job description at the ready.  It’s easier to recall and access information when it is in front of you.

4. Do your homework.

Research the company the same as if you were preparing for a face-to-face interview.  Search the web for information about the organization, its founders, products and services.  Read what the industry press is saying.  Find out what the company does, what stage of growth it’s in, and what kind of buzz it’s getting.

5. Stand up and smile!

By standing, you are literally and figuratively “on your feet.”  Standing and smiling mentally prepare you for interview mode.  You will speak more clearly and be more attentive.  It puts you in the right frame of mind and increases your energy level. 

6. Let the interviewer lead.

While it is important to remain an active participant in the conversation, don’t dominate the dialogue.  The hiring manager most likely has only 20 or 30 minutes set aside to assess your competencies and compare you to other candidates.  Don’t be passive, but let the interviewer guide you through the process.

7. Ask thoughtful questions.

It makes sense to prepare some targeted questions ahead of time to ask during the interview.  The questions should be about the position, your assignments or about the company’s culture or structure—information that can’t be found via a web search.

8. Demonstrate your passion.

How do you feel about your career, your industry or this job?  If you love it, let them know!  Convey your energy and enthusiasm.  Don’t get stuck in a monotone diatribe.

9. Don’t bore the gatekeeper.

Most phone interviews are conducted by a member of HR who doesn’t want to hear the technical intricacies of the software you developed or the minor details of the M&A you helped push through.  The phone interviewer wants to know if you communicate well and if you’ll fit within the company culture.  These initial interviews provide a chance to let your interpersonal skills—not your technical skills—shine. 

10. Nix the tics.

Speech tics and stallers, such as “um,” “er,” “like” and “ya know” are even more glaring during phone interviews when there isn’t anything else on which the interviewer can concentrate.  Remind yourself to speak slowly, concisely and carefully to avoid these conversation faux pas. 

During a phone interview, you have a chance to make an impact quickly.  People don’t often realize the power of their voice.  But on a phone interview, that is all the interviewer has to go by.  If you are unprepared you won’t get your foot in the door for that next interview.  Following these ten tips will help you ace your next phone interview and be well on your way to securing your next position.

Photo Credit: Excelle