By Melissa Crossman
Often, a phone interview stands between you and the person in the position to offer you a job. Ace the phone interview, and you win that golden ticket to the next round of interviews. Make a phone interview faux pas and you're off the list, often in less than five minutes. Stay smart when prepping for that phone interview by keeping foremost in your mind what employers have on theirs, and giving concise and targeted information.
Questions to Expect
Be prepared to answer these five questions and you're more than halfway there. The classic opener, "tell me about yourself," wants practical information, not a life story. Craft a 60 or 90 second elevator pitch that covers your employment history, career aspirations and reason for applying to the position in question. Strengths and weaknesses are another favorite weed 'em out question, so think about how you could answer this honestly (and please, don't say you're too detail oriented as your weakness). Don't talk about money. If the interviewer asks you, give a general salary range that meshes with the job you are applying for and the baseline salary in your location.
How to Convince Them
Once you schedule a phone interview, you've got a limited amount of time to bone up on the employer, the position and your interviewing skills. Use it wisely. Research the position on the company website, through word-of-mouth reputation, and by comparing the job description and salary with similar positions at other companies. Prepare a list of thoughtful and intelligent questions you have about the position, employer or supervisor with whom you'll be working.
Right Before Your Call
Give yourself at least 15 minutes prep time before you expect that phone call. If you happen to be at home during the interview time, don't wait for it in bed in your PJ's. Put on a professional shirt, at the very least. Sit upright in a comfortable chair or stand up; this helps your voice project. Have a glass of water on hand, in case you get parched. If you have pets, lock them out of the room so you won’t be disturbed; if you have roommates, put them on notice to not come into the room.
Print out or have on a computer all of the relevant application materials for the position, so you can refer to them if you need to. Being able to discuss your skills, qualifications and experience in the same language as the employer uses in the job description sends the message that you are authoritative and knowledgeable. You may also want to have a cheat sheet of talking points for questions that you're expecting. These visual cues may help you answer questions without awkward fumbling.
After your phone interview, take the time that same day to say thank you in an email. If you feel the job is a match, indicate your interest in an in-person interview. Every now and then, you realize during a phone interview that a position is not a good match for you. If this happens, thank the interviewer for her time nonetheless. After a phone interview, treat yourself to a work break, favorite snack, movie or other reward. Interviewing is difficult work, but know that your practice will pay off.
Melissa Crossman is an avid reader and writer who loves dispensing practical advice, ranging from how to interact with others during a teleconference to dressing for your final interview.