Career Planning Expert’s Tip of the Month – August

7 Ways to Get Ready for Your Phone Interview

Got a phone interview? Congratulations! This is your big chance to make that all-important first impression.

Yes, there is some pressure. Just because it’s a phone call doesn’t mean it’s any less crucial to you getting the job. You don’t need to stress out over it — you can totally do this! — but you do need to prepare.

Want some help? These seven steps will get you ready to ace your phone interview.

1. Set a Time in Advance
You may think you’re being flexible or courteous by telling the interviewer to call you whenever it works for them, but it’s truly better for everybody if you arrange a date and time in advance. That way, you’re both available, prepared and can give your full attention to the other person. Most interviewers prefer this option over a never-ending game of phone tag.

Setting a time also gives you the chance to gather your paperwork, collect your thoughts and find a quiet place to take the call. Speaking of which…

2. Choose a Good Location

Be choosy when selecting a location for your phone interview. Make sure it’s a quiet, tranquil place, free from distractions. Pick a spot you know well (so you won’t be surprised by unexpected noises or people).

If you’re job-hunting while currently employed — and your boss doesn’t know you’re looking — don’t take the call at the office. No matter how quiet it is, or how careful you think you’re being, the office is out of the question.

I recommend a home office (if you have one) or any room with a door that can shut out most of the noise and traffic around you.

3. Gather Your Materials
Just because you’re on the phone doesn’t mean you won’t need the usual interview materials. Have a pen and paper handy to take notes, and keep your résumé within reach (if you draw a blank on a question, your résumé probably has the answers).

Your résumé is also a good reminder of how you’ve presented yourself to the person on the other end. Be consistent in how you describe your experience and qualifications, using your résumé as a guideline. For my clients, I take it one step further. I have them complete my Interview Cheat Sheet ahead of time and keep it in front of them during the interview. (Want your own cheat sheet? Check out my Career Search Organizer.)

All that talking, coupled with good old-fashioned nervousness, might leave you parched midway through the interview. Keep a glass of water on hand in case you need to whet your whistle or quiet a coughing fit.

4. Answer the Phone Professionally
Answering the phone is the employer’s first live impression of you — it’s like the in-person handshake — and you must make it count. I recommend answering “Hello. This is {first name}.” It’s not only professional but it also eliminates the awkward guessing game. The interviewer will know she’s talking to the right person right away.

If you have a shared phone line, let everyone know you’re expecting an important call and that you want to be the one who answers. Now is a good time to make sure your voice mail greeting is professional, too. Because while your friends might love calling your voice mail just to hear that one quote from Zoolander, employers won’t be impressed.

5. Dress to Impress

What? You’re on the phone, right? The interviewer can’t even see you!

True, but multiple studies have shown that people who dress professionally act more professionally. Think about it: if you’re lounging on the couch in your jammies, you’re not going to feel like — or speak like— a polished pro.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to bring out your three-piece suit and tie. Find something that’s comfortable without being too casual.

6. Actively Listen and Talk
Because the interviewer can’t see you, you have to use your voice and listening abilities to communicate your professionalism and interest.

A great way to showcase your communication skills is to use active listening techniques like repeating questions back to the interviewer, and referencing earlier points in the call throughout the discussion.

7. Land an In-Person Interview
In the simplest terms, the phone interview is just a low-cost way for the company to figure out if you’re worth the time to bring you into the office for a face-to-face interview. So to make the cut, you need to give your interviewer a reason to want to meet you in person.

For instance, if your interviewer asks if you have any questions or comments, let them know that you have some ideas you’d like to share. Tell them you’d love the opportunity to talk more about these ideas in person!

~The Résumé Girl, Lauren Hasson
Career Planning Expert, Campus Calm

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