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Tips for a Successful Phone Interview

If a job recruiter or other type of interview screener from a company requests a phone interview with you, you can advance through that phone-screening process with help from these tips. Remember that phone interviewing techniques vary from the interviewing guidelines that you follow for face-to-face interviews.

When the call comes for a phone interview, use the following suggestions to enhance your chances of landing an in-person interview:

  • If you have a home office, use it. An office just feels more businesslike. You may find it helpful to face a blank wall to eliminate distractions of gazing out a window or spotting dust on your favorite painting.

  • Gather essential information. At the start of the conversation, get the caller’s name, title, company, e-mail address, and phone number. Read back the spelling.

  • Market yourself. Assume the role of “seller” during the interview. If you sell your skills and abilities effectively, the listener sees value in bringing you in for an interview.

  • Strike the right tone. Be enthusiastic but don’t dominate the conversation.

  • Have an answer ready. Be prepared to answer the “tell me about yourself” request early on; keep your answer to two minutes.

  • Ask smart questions. Demonstrate industry knowledge by asking “intelligence” questions: The industry seems to be moving toward [emerging technology]. How does your company plan to compete?

  • Don’t rush or drone on. Speak clearly and be aware of your pace — not too fast, not too slow. Don’t ramble or over-explain. Keep your answers short and succinct; if the interviewer wants more information, she’ll ask for it.

  • Use check-back phrases. After answering a question, you can add such follow-on phrases as Does that answer your question? Have I sufficiently answered your question about my managerial experience? Is this the kind of information you’re seeking?

  • Be a champion listener. Prove that you’re paying attention by feeding back what the interviewer says: In other words, you feel that —. Interject short responses intermittently to acknowledge the interviewer’s comments: That’s interesting . . . I see . . . Great idea.

  • Get specific. Describe your ability to benefit the company by using specific dollar amounts and percentages to explain your past accomplishments. Let them know how you did it.

  • Punt the salary question. Phone screeners often ask you to name an expected salary. Play dodge ball on this one. You don’t know how much money you want yet because you don’t know what the job is worth.

  • Push for a meeting. As the call winds to a close, go for the prize:

    As we talk, I’m thinking we can better discuss my qualifications for (position title) in person. I can be at your office Thursday morning. Is 9:30 good, or is there a better time for you?

    Another statement:

    (Interviewer’s name), based on the information you have given me, I am very interested in pursuing this work opportunity and would like to schedule a time for us to meet in person. What looks good for you?

    When the interviewer agrees but can’t set a specific time, simply suggest when you are available and ask when would be a good time to follow up.

  • Say thanks. Express your appreciation for the time spent with you.

  • Write a thank-you letter. Just because the interview was via phone doesn’t negate the wisdom of putting your thanks in an e-mail. Make it a sales letter restating the qualifications you bring to the position.

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