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Powerful Phone Interviews

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Phone interviews are de rigueur with many organizations. Companies conduct phone interviews for a number of reasons. It's a way to screen out the dead wood. It gives the next interviewer baseline information from which to work. It saves money.

So, how do you prep for a powerful phone interview? And how is it different from a face-to-face interview? Recently, three of my clients aced their phone interviews. Here's what we learned works.

Prepping for the phone interview:

If you need to call from work or from a phone booth or a cell phone, tell the screener/interviewer what the circumstances are. It's better to explain ahead of time than to suddenly have to stop midway through because of noise or an interruption.

Stand up. You project stronger energy when you stand. Or even better, walk around. Remember, the interviewer has only your words and the sound of your voice with which to judge you. You will come across more upbeat and enthusiastic if you stand.

Even for a phone interview, you need to do your homework. The interviewer will be asking, "Why do you want to work at XYZ Company?" and "What do you know about us?"

Be prepared to answer classic questions, such as: "Tell me about a difficult situation you handled well," "What are your areas of development?" or an all-time favorite: "Why should we hire you?" If you need help in formulating answers to these questions, see the suggested reading section below.

Keep your responses brief, 1-3 sentences maximum. Choose your words carefully, and be focused. Answer the question. Do not go off on a tangent. This is even more important in the phone interview stage, where the interviewer will appreciate your succinctness.

Have water and throat lozenges handy. If you get dry mouth (don't you hate that), these can be lifesavers.

How is a phone interview different from a face-to-face interview?

You can use crib notes. And I would. Just in case you get the jitters or have a senior moment, have your responses written out (in bullet form). It's better than any security blanket.

The timbre and inflection of your voice is critical. Modulate your voice to avoid sounding monotone. When I was a recruiter and conducted phone interviews, I could pick up immediately by the tone of the person's voice whether they had the requisite drive for the job.

A phone interview is brief, sometimes 20 minutes or less. It is oftentimes a screening rather than an interview. There won't be a lot of follow-up questions based upon your responses. You won't get to connect with the interviewer. It may feel formulaic. The interviewer asks a question, and you respond. This is normal.

You will know immediately if you have done well. They will tell you they are passing you on. If you haven't done well, you will get a vague response. Ask when you should follow-up.

Finally, like a face-to-face interview, always send a thank-you note. A handwritten note is best. Sending an e-mail is acceptable, but less personal. Thank the interviewer for her time. Say you enjoyed the conversation and look forward to taking the next step. Indicate you will follow up within the appropriate time frame.

A successful phone interview is a wonderful prep for the in-person gig. You've learned what your top lines are. You've done your research. You've made it to the next step. And your confidence level is up.

So, when you get the chance for a phone interview, embrace the opportunity. It's practice for the main event.

By Dale Kurow

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