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Phone interviews are becoming more and more common. Recruiters use them for efficiency and economy in their screening processes, particularly for filling entry level positions. It’s a good idea to become comfortable interviewing by phone and to prepare and practice as you would in a face-to-face interview. Some phone interviews are done with a video cam and those present different challenges and opportunities. If you are in job search mode, it’s a good idea to always be prepared for a phone interview. You never know when a simple phone call with a contact can turn into a type of preliminary phone interview. As in most things in life, the trick is in the preparation.

Let’s consider some things to do to prepare for a successful phone interview.


Prior to the Scheduled Phone Interview – Setting the Stage

Logistics:
1. Make sure you know who (one or more people) will be conducting the interview and check their LinkedIn page(s).
2. Ensure that your resume and LinkedIn pages do not have any discrepancies.
3. Confirm the correct time (and time zone) and phone number with your interviewer on the day before the interview.
4. Organize a quiet space in which to speak. Make sure the space is uncluttered and tidy.
5. Have a paper and pen ready to take notes.
6. Use a land line phone. Cell phones are unreliable for such an important call.
7. Have on hand a glass of water and box of tissues.

Research Preparation:
1. Have a copy of the job description, your resume and your cover letter in front of you.  Know them all.
2. Make a list of typical interview questions and answers that the interviewer may ask.
3. Practice your responses to these questions so they come out easily. If possible, ask a friend to do a mock interview with you over the phone.
4. Review the company website and all relevant employees’ LinkedIn pages. Have the company website on your computer screen while speaking so you can quickly access any information.
5. Conduct an internet search on the company to get its latest news report and happenings
6. Research any connections you may have within or outside of the company.
7. Prepare a list of 3 – 4 well-researched questions for the interviewer not only to get information but to demonstrate your deep knowledge of the industry, the company, and the position. These questions should not be ones that are easily answered by perusing the company website.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! - The Phone Rings

OK, now its show time! What should you remember to do?

1. RELAX. Sounding relaxed and confident is one of the most important things to remember in a phone interview.
2. Pick up the phone after the second ring. Answer the call by saying, “Hello, <your name>”. The interviewer will introduce him/herself. Make sure you thank them for calling and get the correct spelling of their name. You will need this for the follow up thank you note. It there are multiple people on the line, write down each name. Try to remember each voice.
3. Introduce yourself in 30 seconds. Have a brief prepared script and practice it until you are comfortable.
4. Keep your answers on-topic and succinct. Think before you answer. As most interviews are behavioral and seek actual examples of your skills, make sure you have some brief but relevant examples to share. Each response should be no more than two minutes. Here’s a good list of behavioral questions http://www.quintcareers.com/sample_behavioral.html
5. LISTEN! Actively listening is even more important in a phone interview since you can’t see the interviewer and their physical cues. This goes both ways as the interviewer cannot see you either and will be actively listening.
6. Take notes and write down any questions that come to mind as the interviewer speaks. You can refer to them later when you ask questions.
7. Never interrupt the interviewer. This can happen accidentally as you both try to sync up your speaking opportunities. If it does, just apologize politely and ask the interviewer to please continue.
8. Allow short periods of silence rather than filling them up with chatter.
9. Stand up while speaking to give your voice more resonance. Dress in business attire to set a professional tone.
10. Stay positive. SMILE while speaking. Your smile will come across to the speaker. Looking in a mirror while speaking can also make you sound more animated.
11. Pay full attention to the interviewer. Do not do anything else while you are on the call.
12. The tone, clarity and pitch of your voice and the speed of your speech are all clues to the interviewer about your personality, temperament and credibility. Make sure you speak slower than normal and speak clearly. The interviewer is assessing you not only what you say but perhaps more importantly, how you say it.
13. Avoid speech fillers (“um”, “like”, “uh”) and false starts that end mid-utterance without being completed.
14. ASK QUESTIONS! – You must ask 2 – 3 questions. Failure to ask questions may show disinterest or lack of enthusiasm for the job. Either ask your prepared questions (make sure you check them off if the interviewer answered them in the course of the call), or questions that you jotted down during the call.

Wrapping up the Call:
1. THANK YOU - Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration
2. EXPRESS YOUR ENTHUSIASM FOR THE JOB – “It has been a pleasure speaking with you today and I am even more interested in this position.”
3. Ask about the next step. Ask about the selection process and if there is anything else that you might do to show your fit for the job.
4. Ask if and when you may contact them to follow up on the interview.

Post- Interview TO DO List:
1. On the same day as the phone call, send a polite and enthusiastic thank you email to the interviewer.
2. The next day mail a thank you note to the interviewer.
3. Contact the interviewer on the assigned day to follow up.

Phone interviews can be really powerful if you prepare, relax and let your best side shine.