- Pick a good time and place – The first thing you have to do when setting up a phone interview is to choose a good time for you, when you will be at your best (most alert), and then choose where to have this very important conversation. It must be somewhere quiet, where you will not be distracted. No pets, kids, or chatty people at the next table. Quiet.
- Research the company – Phone interviews aren’t ‘get-to-know-you’ sessions—they’re the first step toward getting an offer. Get to know them before your interview in your pre-interview research. Learning what you can about the company ahead of time signals that you are a professional, and that you are taking this opportunity seriously. It also allows you to come up with better interview answers as well as higher-quality questions of your own.
- Research the interviewer – What does the person who’s interviewing you do at this company? Is it going to be your potential boss? Is it someone in HR? What is their background? What do they care about? Remember that the job interview is a sales process. This person is the customer, or the buyer. This is the one who’s going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to moving you to the next step. Find out what you can about your customer before you get there.
- Prepare answers to common interview questions (and practice saying them) – It’s always a good idea to practice answering interview questions before any interview. Interviews are stressful. Take away some of the stress by knowing you have fantastic answers to “Tell me about yourself,” “Why do you want to work here?” and other common questions.
- Create a list of questions to ask – Candidates are often asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” toward the end of the interview. It’s a bad idea to say, “No.” Come up with some intelligent, thoughtful questions to ask then and during the course of your conversation.
- Get your ‘cheat sheets’ ready – The best thing about phone interviews is that you can cheat. By ‘cheat,’ I mean that since they can’t see you, you are free to keep all your notes in front of you—unlike a face-to-face interview. Keep a copy of your resume right there, along with your list of questions to ask, some key points you want to make about why they should hire you, your list of references, and anything else that will ensure you have a great telephone interview.
- Find a landline to use – If you have access to a landline, use it rather than your cell phone. With a cell phone, there’s always a chance (even if it’s a small one) of bad reception, dropped calls, and “Hello? Can you hear me?” kinds of issues. Make sure you have a smooth, worry-free experience with a very stable landline.
- Think about your voice – The person on the other end of the line only has your voice to judge you on. Do you sound friendly? Professional? Competent? Confident? Think about projecting those qualities with your voice.
- Watch what you say – You don’t want to be giving only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, but you also don’t want to be delivering a speech with every answer. Keep your answers under a minute or two, and limit yourself to answering the question—don’t joke, don’t ramble, and don’t give them too much information. (And don’t ask about salary, vacation, or benefits.)
- Smile – Remember to smile when you speak. All by itself, smiling helps you sound friendlier, more enthusiastic, and more confident. If you have to keep a mirror up in front of you to remember to smile, do it.
- Ask for the next step – Don’t get off the phone without asking when you can meet in person to discuss this opportunity in greater detail. They might not even realize how much you want this job unless you express your enthusiasm and ask for it.
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