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Phone Interviews: Prepare to Ace Them!

By Jeff Altman
Posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005

More companies are saving time and effort by doing initial telephone interviews before committing themselves to hours of time assessing and evaluating applicants. They are doing this because, frankly, it's a good way to save a team's time from interviewing obviously unqualified people. From your standpoint, this means that you need to develop an additional interview skill.

One of the disadvantages of doing a phone interview is that they can't see how well you look or what a great suit you're wearing to the interview or that you own terrific ties. It also means that you can sit in the comfort of your home, rather than trudging to their site. With this opportunity, comes problem. The major problem is that they can't see how well you look or what great clothes you own. All they can do is listen to your voice and the energy that you convey and listen to the answers to your questions; you, on the other hand, can't see when you've lost their attention or when you've bored them. There are no visual cues for either of you.

But with preparation, you can do a fabulous job and get in the door. Here's a few pointers.

1. For any interview, go to the company's website and learn about the firm. Also, if you can read a job specification on their site (or elsewhere) do so. After all the spec is the road map to what they are going to assess your abilities for.

2. Take some notes to remind yourself of points that you may want to make or about things that you might forget. Sometimes people get nervous, just like they do in person. Have a few notes nearby about your role, responsibilities and accomplishments as helpful reminders. Support your statements with detailed examples of accomplishments when possible. Remember, they can't see if you have a manual open to something you might be a little rusty in! They can't see that you have your resume in front of you!

3. Rehearse. Have someone call you and listen to your voice on the phone. Maybe your cordless phone makes your voice sound tinny. Maybe you speak too softly, mumble or speak too quickly to be understood by others. Ask someone you trust to critique you.

4. Pick out a place in your house where the kids won't interrupt you or the tv won't make noise in the background. I hate interviewing people who have the stereo playing in the background (it happens more often than you can imagine).

5. Write down their questions so that you can stay on purpose. Too often, people forget the original question and go rambling about something far a field. Stay on target.

6. Your voice is your only sales tool. Don't allow yourself to sound tired or blasé over the phone. Sounds energetic and excited, even if they've asked you the same questions that every other interviewer has for the last six months!

7. At the time of the phone interview, log off your computer (If you can't definitely get off of instant messengers and other services that chime. These may sabotage your concentration just when you need it most.

8. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. I can't emphasize enough that you need to practice phone interviews, just as you have in person one.

9. Don't use your cell phone if you can avoid it. Cell phones rarely allow your voice to sound as clear as a standard land line. Try to avoid using it for interviews.

10. Be courteous and try not to speak over the interviewer or cut them off. If you do, apologize and let the interviewer continue.

11. Do not hang up until the interviewer has hung up.

Follow these pointers and I'm sure you'll do better on your interviews.

About the Author
Jeff Altman has successfully assisted many corporations identify technology management leaders and staff since 1971. He is also co-founder of Your Next Job, a networking group focused on assisting technology professionals with their job search, a certified leader of the ManKind Project, a not for profit organization that assists men with life issues, and a practicing psychotherapist. For additional job hunting or hiring tips, go to (http://www.newyorkmetrotechnologyjobs.com) If you would like Jeff and his firm to assist you with hiring staff, or if you would like help with a strategic job change, send an email to him at jeffaltman@cisny.com (If you’re looking for a new position, include your resume).