How to Ace Your Next Phone Interview

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phone interviewAs a stellar would-be employee, you want to sail through the interview process. But before you think that all you need is a knockout résumé and a killer outfit, think again. Nowadays, there’s a step before the in-person interview: the phone interview.

“The global economy means more and more cross-border hiring, where an initial phone interview becomes even more important,” says Sanjeev Agrawal, founder of Collegefeed, a career marketplace for college students.

Employers are increasingly opting for phone interviews to screen potential new hires. By doing so, companies can sort through candidates without committing to the expense and time required for on-site meet-ups.

A survey conducted by OfficeTeam, a staffing agency based in Menlo Park, Calif., polled 515 human resources managers, the majority (57%) of whom reported that phone interviews happen “very often.”

Furthermore, Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook,” says, “All jobs start with a phone call.” Meaning: Even if you aren’t scheduled for a formal phone interview, any conversation with a potential employer, however brief it might be, makes an impression.

Not being face-to-face with someone doesn’t mean that you don’t still need to bring your A-game. You might have the best intentions, but what you say and how you say it (tone, pace, inflection, etc.) can easily be misinterpreted. Here, step-by-step advice to help you give good voice.

Step 1: Prepare, prepare, prepare

“It takes days to get ready for a phone interview,” explains Bailo. On day one, he advises, do all your research. Take to Google to find out everything you need to know—and more—about the company. Then, on day two, write out a list of questions, like, “What specific qualities and skills are you looking for in a job candidate?” or “I read that the company ____ (insert recent company success here). How do you see this position contributing to the continued success of the organization?” This will demonstrate your interest in the company, and the job, and show that you’re a highly qualified applicant. Agrawal points out, “Phone interviews are a great opportunity to find out more details about the job, the company, the work environment and the team, as job descriptions are notoriously vague.”

Another tip: Find an online photograph of the person who is interviewing you. Search on LinkedIn or on the company’s website. It’s much easier to talk with someone when you know what he/she looks like.

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