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Get the 411 Before You Dial In...10 Tips For a Successful Phone Interview

Phone interviews are exactly that - a way for potential employers to screen-out candidates who are not a good fit for the role. Some job seekers miss the mark on the phone interview by not treating is as seriously as an in-person interview, and in-turn, they lose the chance to make a powerful first impression. Stay in the running for the coveted job by using these tips to impress the interviewer and increase the odds that you make it to the next round.

1. Prepare
Take many of the same steps in preparing for a phone interview as you would for an in-person interview. Print a copy of your resume, develop your questions, do your company research, find out about your interviewer, and have a list of your successes ready to turn to. In case they ask, make note of any failures and what you learned from them.  Before you start the call, have the interviewer’s name and pronunciation written down so you can easily address the person by name a few times during the call; a personal touch goes a long way. Oftentimes, a job seeker will hop on a phone interview without preparing, and that lack of preparation can be obvious.

2. Use a Mirror

I encourage the candidates I work with to use a mirror during their phone interviews. It reminds them to be animated and to smile. These gestures will come through in the tone of your voice and will translate into enthusiasm for the role. It will also help your personality shine, which can be difficult when talking on the phone to someone you don’t know.

3. Dress Up

Sure, you could do a phone interview in your favorite sweat pants and college sweatshirt, but there are two important reasons why this isn’t good practice. Foremost, when you dress the part you act the part. Feeling polished and put together will come through in the way you speak and how you present yourself on the phone. The confidence boost you get from feeling good will translate into confidence for the role. Additionally, you never know when a phone screen could turn into a Skype call; you want to join that call without missing a beat which means not having to run to your bedroom to change your clothes.

4. Stay Put and Create a Quiet Environment

You want to be settled in one place.  Avoid driving, doing the dishes, walking around the house in circles or any other activity that could give the impression you are distracted. And speaking of distractions, put your dog outside, don’t be in room with your parrot (who knows what he might say) and in general, keeps children and pets [safely] out of the way. You don’t want to do anything that seems unprofessional, and you want to avoid asking the interviewer to repeat herself because of background noise.

5. Shut Off Your Phone

If you are not using your cell phone for the phone interview, be sure to shut it off. You don’t want to be distracted with a text, email or incoming call with a funky ringtone. Keep your computer shut too, to avoid the many temptations it holds.

6. Have Lots of Bars                                                 

If you are using your cell phone, be sure to find a spot that you know has excellent coverage (and stay there!).  Avoid making the call from your car if you can; otherwise, your interviewers may hear alarms going off, people talking outside or fire trucks going by. Also, you want to avoid having your boss walk by while you are on a call – it looks suspicious (because it is.)

7. Set an Alarm

Begin preparing a few minutes before the call so you can be relaxed and ready when the phone rings. Don’t be out of breath as if you were running to make the call; you don’t want to seem rushed or ill-prepared.

8. Water and Tissues

Your voice is your first impression for a phone interview. Stay hydrated to avoid a scratchy voice and coughing during the call.   Have tissues handy for any unexpected sneezes. You don’t want to be scrambling for a hanky in the midst of your interview.

9. Have Your Calendar Handy

If the phone interview goes well and you’re excited about the role, you’ll need to prepare for next steps. Have your calendar handy in order to schedule an in-person interview. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to get it on the schedule right away.

10. Plan Your Wrap-up

Before the call starts, you’ll want to know how you are going to end it. Make sure you ask for the interviewer's email address so you can send along a thank you note. Go over your list of questions to be sure they were all answered. If you didn’t get a chance to talk about your most important strengths, find a way to weave them into the end of the call. If you are interested in the job, let the interviewer know it; be enthusiastic and share what appeals to you about the role, the company and what you’ve learned on the call.

If you take the phone interview as seriously as an in-person meeting and prepare and practice in advance, you will avoid being “screened out” and set yourself up for the crucial next steps to getting the job.

Photo Credit: Colourbox