career-coachMany companies are increasingly using phone interviews to screen candidates before inviting them for an in-person interview. This low-risk investment is a quick way for them to get to know a person and decide whether or not to proceed with the interview process.

As a candidate vying for the job, a phone interview can be a valuable opportunity for you to make a great first impression on a company. Following are five strategies we recommend to our career coaching clients to help master phone interviews:

1. Be prepared — Find a room or area in your home that is quiet and allows you to easily focus. You should have answers to typical introductory interview questions such as “What do you know about our company?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” on index cards in bullet-point format. One proven career coach strategy is to practice these responses out loud with a friend or record them and listen to the tone and flow of your answers.

Make sure you visit the company’s website and are familiar with any news about the company. It’s also a good idea to learn more about your interviewer on LinkedIn. Is he or she in HR? A specific department? Be prepared to adjust your vocabulary and level of detail accordingly.

2. Smile and stand — Posture and body language can make a difference, even on the phone. Smiling makes your voice sound more energetic and positive. If you are nervous, standing, or even walking around the room, will help calm your voice. Because your tone is one of the main impressions the interviewer will have, it is important to do everything you can to be comfortable and confident. Some people also find that dressing in work clothes helps them sound more professional.

career-coach3. Keep your answers succinct — Remember that the purpose of a phone interview is to do an initial screening for candidates. Answer each question directly, staying on topic. Allow for moments of silence during the call. Any rambling will make you sound scattered. Most likely, your interviewer is taking notes or preparing the next question.

4. Take notes — You should divide your notes into a few sections: relevant information about the company or position, questions you have about the company or position, and questions that were difficult for you to answer. Refer to these notes to help you prepare for interviews later in the process. Also, if there were questions that were difficult to answer, it is important to formulate articulate responses and write them down on index cards. Of course, keep practicing these responses.

5. Follow up — Within 24 hours after the phone interview, send an email to your interviewer to reiterate your interest in the position and ask about next steps. A career coach would advise that your follow-up communications should remind the interviewer who you are and what you would contribute to the company. If you were prepared, positive and direct, chances are good that you’ll be invited for an in-person interview.

Looking for additional help in preparing for interviews? Consider doing a mock interview with a career coach to become more aware of yo verbal and non-verbal performance, and to learn how to respond more effectively to questions.

What other strategies have you found effective for phone interviews?

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