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Interview Tips - Phone Interview Tips


Preparing for the Phone Interview

Being prepared for a phone interview takes organization. Remember that your single objective of the phone interview is to sell yourself and your skills so you are invited for a face-to-face interview. During the phone interview, the company representative has only ears with which to judge you.


Keep your resume, company information, calendar, pen and paper by the phone.


Find a secluded space to take the call in.  Be somewhere you feel comfortable in without distractions - like coworkers, tv, radio, food or being in the car.


Use a landline if possible, if not, make sure you are somewhere that gets excellent reception so the interviewer can clearly hear and understand you.


Get a "callback number" right away so that you have, should you need it later.


Make sure you allow enough time for the interview so you are not rushed and so the interviewer does not feel rushed.


Should an emergency arise, explain the situation and ask to reschedule instead of missing the call or trying to do it all.


The Interview

Generally, the company representative will contact you to schedule your phone interview. However, take a surprise call in stride. If you receive a call and you are unprepared, be calm. Sound positive, friendly, and collected: "Thank you for calling, Mr. Smith. Would you wait just a minute while I close the door?" Put the phone down, take three deep breaths to slow your heart down, pull out the appropriate company information and your resume, put a smile on your face (it improves the tone of your voice), and pick up the phone again. Now you are in control of yourself and the situation. Please note that interviewers do not always call from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so you may be getting a call early in the morning or late evening. Always be prepared! Your voicemail must have a professional message in case the interviewer has to leave a message. If your recording has crude, rude or suggestive comments on it, this immediately portrays a negative image to the hiring officials.


You should always refer to the interviewer by his or her surname until invited to do otherwise.


Allow the company representative to do most of the talking and to ask most (but not all) of the questions. Keep up your end of the conversation - this is, after all, a sales presentation, so be sure to ask a few questions of your own that will reveal you as an intelligent person and provide you the opportunity to promote your candidacy. For example, ask what immediate projects the department is involved in, or the biggest challenges that are being tackled. When the interviewer answers your question, you will either have a clear picture of how to sell yourself, or you will ask a follow-up question for clarification. For example: "What specific skills and personality traits do you think are necessary for a person to succeed with those challenges?"


Beware of giving yes/no answers. They give no real information about your abilities.
Be factual in your answers. Brief, yet thorough. Give examples referring to your educational, work or volunteer experiences.


Speak directly into the phone. Keep the mouthpiece about one inch from your mouth. Speak clearly and slowly. Your enthusiasm/energy must reflect through your voice. Do not smoke, eat, or chew gum while on the phone.


Take notes. They will be invaluable to you in preparing for the face-to-face meeting.


The company representative may talk about the corporation, and from the company information in front of you, you will also know facts about the company. A little flattery goes a long way - admiring the company's achievements is, in fact, admiring the interviewer. Likewise, if any areas of common interest arise, comment on them, and agree with the interviewer when possible.


Prepare a few work-related questions. For example, "What exactly will be the major responsibilities in this position?" or "What will be my first assignment?" While you are getting the explanation, wait for a pause so that you can tell the interviewer your appropriate skills: "Would it be of value if I described my experience in the area of office management?" or "Then my experience in word processing should be a great help to you" or "I recently completed an accounting project just like that."


In the phone interview, professionals recommend that you do not ask about salary, or benefits and vacation time. This information will be discussed in a later interview.


Closing the Interview

The phone interview has come to an end when you are asked whether you have any questions. Ask any more questions that will improve your understanding of the employment requirements.


If you have not already been asked or invited to meet the interviewer, now is the time to ask about the next step in the interview process or ask for a face-to-face interview. You can choose a subtle or direct approach. "I am interested in learning more about this opportunity. What is the next step for interviewing and when do you expect to make a decision on second interviews?"

A more direct statement could be "The position sounds like a very interesting opportunity, Ms. Smith, and an environment where I could definitely make a contribution. When can we get together to further discuss employment?"


If you are uncertain about the spelling and pronunciation of the interviewer's name, you should ask for the correct spelling and pronunciation. This shows your concern for the small but important items in employment--it will be noticed. After the interview, follow up with a thank you letter.


Positions are often difficult to evaluate properly over the phone. Even if the position does not sound "ideal", you should still interview to learn more about the opportunity. You will gain networking experience, practice and the job may look better when you have more facts. You might even discover a more suitable opening in another department within the company when you go to the face-to-face interview.

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