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5 tips for your next phone interview

April 29, 2014

Are you looking for new IT jobs and career opportunities? If so, you'd better brush up on your interviewing skills. More specifically, you'd be well-served to focus on phone interviews. An increasing number of hiring managers and employers now see the phone interview as a basic precursor to the in-person interview. If you can't perform well on a phone interview, you aren't likely to make it to the next round.

Here are five tips you should consider for your next phone interview.

1. Prepare
To do well during any interview, you will need to take the time to prepare adequately. 

But while this precept is widely understood and embraced when it comes to in-person interviews, many job candidates will fail to prepare sufficiently prior to a phone interview. The preliminary interactions are seen by such individuals as less substantial, and therefore less rigorous. This thinking is problematic, because you won't actually reach the in-person interview stage unless this first round goes well.

Writing for Business 2 Community, Richard White recently emphasized that phone interview research should be very wide-ranging.

"Learn about the company's culture, mission, goals, products and services and employee/employer records," White recommended. "Do not pass on information based on your assumption."

The more information you have at your disposal, the better you'll be able to tailor your responses during the phone interview.

2. Pick the right place
Location matters during your phone interview. You want to come across as professional, focused, knowledgeable and eager. If you take the call while in a noisy environment, however, you and the interviewer may struggle to hear one another, and you will sound less focused than you'd like.

Writing for NBC Chicago, Kelly Gorham recommended choosing a location that somewhat resembles the environment of a typical in-person interview. If you choose a setting that is too comfortable, such as a sofa or lounge chair, you may have trouble concentrating to your utmost, which will undermine your performance. Additionally, Gorham emphasized the importance of taking care of potential distractions in advance. If you have children or pets, make sure they are being watched by someone else during this time so your phone interview will not be interrupted.

3. Have your resume ready
Hiring managers use the phone interview, like an in-person interview, as an opportunity to learn more about candidates and how well-suited they seem for the available position. Oftentimes, the interviewer will consult the applicant's resume, asking specific questions based on the information available.

One of the advantages phone interviews hold for applicants is that they enable you to consult your own resume during this process. You should be well-versed in all of your resume points, but having it right in front of you will refresh your memory if you become flustered.

That is why White recommended either keeping a copy of your resume on your desk or taping the document to your wall near the phone in preparation for your phone interview. Every little edge can help, and this may boost your performance.

4. Be happy
One valuable, tip for anyone about to participate in a phone interview is to smile, according to Gorham. She argued that phone interviewers can accurately determine whether the applicant is happy and smiling or not.

"Since it's not face-to-face, smiling and speaking positively will help project appreciation and brings energy to the conversation," Gorham wrote. "Your energy and enthusiasm will come through the phone, so make sure that you are keeping a spirited and outgoing attitude."

5. Be focused
Because the interview takes place in the comfort of your own home, it may be tempting to engage in some light multi-tasking while on the phone. Perhaps you want to straighten out your desk or file some papers or skim a magazine article. While these activities may not require much mental energy, they will still distract you and diminish your focus.

And according to White, many candidates go so far as to mute their phones throughout their interviews in an attempt to hide their multitasking. The writer argued that interviewers will likely know when this is happening, and the applicant will come across as uninterested and unprofessional.

When you have a phone interview, that should be your only activity. Everything else can wait.

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