3:20 PM EDT, May 10, 2013
For many recruiters, the phone has become another means of weeding out unworthy applicants. Sure, your resume is getting you a second look, but before a company HR representative calls you in, there's a good chance he or she will call you up.
Rarely used even a decade ago, the phone interview is now a critical tool that helps recruiters narrow their applicants. Be advised, a phone is an entirely different beast from a face-to-face encounter; what you say and how you say it become even more important.
With that in mind, here are some tips for mastering the phone interview:
Be attentive: Turn off your iPad, shut down your computer and ditch your smartphone. You shouldn't have any distractions.
Pay complete, total and full attention to the person on the other end of the line, as if you were staring them in the eye, says Karen Friedman, a communications coach in Blue Bell, Pa. "People can read and feel your body language across the miles, so, act as if they are in the room with you so they can feel your energy, presence and attention."
April Callis, author of "Springboard to Success" (Springboard, $19.95) asserts that standing up will help you stay focused."It will give you more energy in your voice if you stand," says Callis. "Also, smile while you talk so that you sound friendly and enthused."
Be clear: Since you're on the phone, you'll need to speak precisely. "Pronounce your words clearly and don't trail off at the end of a sentence," says Friedman. "You want to make sure you are heard and understood. Additionally, pause to give the person on the other end of the line a chance to digest what you are saying and to participate in the conversation."
Be prepared: Since the telephone interview is most commonly a screening, you'll need to go the extra mile to connect with the interviewer. To do this, be sure to decide in advance which questions you might ask when prompted by your interviewer.
"Think about what you want the other person to know so you don't spend the entire interview simply answering questions," says Friedman. "By only answering questions, you miss opportunities to deliver key points if the person on the other end of the phone doesn't ask you a question to trigger one of these points."
Have examples to highlight your strengths: "Be warm and personal by backing it up with examples, stories and anecdotes that the person on the other end of the phone can relate to and understand," says Friedman.
Callis adds that you should be sure to tell the interviewer you are looking forward to meeting him or her. "They are trying to screen you out, so don't give them a reason to put you in the 'pile,'" she says. "Stay upbeat, positive and attentive."
Be yourself: Shortly after graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eric Marek had a phone interview with a Chicago law firm that didn't go as planned.
"I was interviewing for a web-development job that required a lot of interaction with the firm's attorneys, thanks to the recommendation of a fraternity brother who graduated the year before," says Marek. "He sold me as a laid-back guy who was personable and easy to work with, because I am. But during the interview, I freaked out. I put the call on speaker, which was a bad idea, and gave these really formal and stiff answers. I think I came across as a total tech nerd. They didn't even bother to call me back for a face-to-face interview."
Although it may be difficult to carry a casually confident tone during a phone interview, it's important."You can't come across like you're reading a script," Marek says."You need to be natural. Be someone you'd actually want to have a conversation with."
Excerpt from Calling All Grads: Turn a Degree into a Job, edited by Marco Buscaglia.
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