Don't be left hanging during a phone interview

Treat them as seriously as in-person interviews, commentators advise

I once got a job via a phone interview. It was probably the most relaxing job interview I've ever had because I didn’t realise it was a job interview. I thought we were just having a wee chat prior to organising a face-to-face interview.

Had I known, I’m sure the interview wouldn’t have gone so well because nerves would have hit. My case was unusual, because phone interviews are more likely to be used to decide which candidates will make it to a face-to-face interview rather than who actually gets the job.

Writing on, Peter Vogt says phone interviews save organisations time, particularly when candidates live in a different city.

Vogt says it's good to view phone interviews as not too different to face-to-face interviews and that preparation is just as important.

The good thing about a phone interview is that it is very easy to have your CV and cover letter sitting in front of you.

“You might also want to have in front of you any supporting materials that relate to information in your resume and cover letter, like documents you've designed or written, a portfolio of your various projects, or the written position description from your key internship,” says Vogt.

He also recommends candidates write a “cheat sheet” with notes about the critical points they want to make.

“Then touch on them during the interview, even if your only chance to do so is at the end of the session when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions or anything to add.”

And yes, Vogt recommends people dress up, even for a phone interview.

“…focusing on your appearance, just as you would for a normal interview, will put you in the right frame of mind from a psychological standpoint.”

He also recommends either standing up or at least sitting at a table or desk.

Writing on, Alison Doyle also advises preparing for a phone interview just like a regular interview and also suggests practical advice such as turning off call-waiting, making sure the room is clear of people and pets and having a glass of water handy.

Doyle says talking on the phone is not as easy as it seems and she advises practising, using a tape recorder so people can hear how they sound.

“You'll be able to hear your "ums" and "uhs" and "okays" and you can practice reducing them from your conversational speech. Also rehearse answers to those typical questions you'll be asked.”

Though it might make you feel foolish, Doyle says phone interviewees should smile during the interview because it will change the tone of their voice.

She also says it is important not to interrupt the interviewer and that candidates should take their time and give short answers.

According to career consultant Hugh Anderson, writing on Career Journal (about taking screening calls from recruiters), experts estimate that more than 80% of job interviews are won or lost during the first five minutes of conversation and this includes telephone screening interviews.

Anderson also emphasises preparation and suggests the use of small index cards for people to list statements about their strengths.

He also says people need to be a good listener.

“… let the recruiter complete his thought or question before you respond. Ask for clarification. Use open-ended questions. The more information you can gather, the better you can respond.”

If interviewers ask about salary expectations, Anderson suggests a usual answer is: "While compensation is important, other issues are also important. If they can be clarified, then the compensation issue won't be a problem."

Anderson says that at the end of the interview the candidate should say they are interested and ask about the next step.

“If you don't receive a positive response and you're sincerely interested, ask the recruiter if he or she has any areas of concern.”

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