Phone interviews lack many things that can make an in-person meeting with a potential employer so stressful. You don't have to make your way to an unfamiliar location and hunt for a parking spot, meet and impress prospective colleagues in the hallways, or figure out an elegant way to hide that spot on your shirt. As a result, some job seekers approach phone interviews less seriously. Here are a few guideposts that will help you walk the line between over-preparing and not being prepared enough.
Be professional throughout your interview
From the beginning, you must present yourself as polished, considerate and professional. That means greeting the hiring manager with, "Hi, Joanna, this is John Douglas. It's a pleasure to speak with you" as opposed to the kind of casual greeting you reserve for close friends. And if your outgoing phone message is casual or goofy, change it in case the employer's call goes to voice mail. Just before the scheduled interview time, disable call waiting and get set up in a distraction-free environment with a strong cell signal or landline connection. Have your resume and the job listing in front of you. Smile as you talk to give your voice confidence. At the end of the call, thank the hiring manager for her time. If she hasn't mentioned the possibility of an in-person interview, ask politely about the next step.
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But be yourself.
Being overly formal can have the opposite of your intended effect. Needlessly officious language can create a barrier between you and the employer. Ideally, you want to find common ground. The same holds true for projecting too much enthusiasm if these feelings don't come naturally for you.
Prepare yourself to answer thoroughly
Research the company and its current challenges, just as you would for an in-person interview. Swallow your pride and ask a friend to conduct a practice phone interview with you. Afterward, make a list of key talking points that match up with the position's requirements. Keep it handy during your interview to use as a reminder.
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Don't overdo it.
During in-person interviews, nonverbal prompts make it easier to carry on a natural conversation. You can generally tell when the interviewer wants you to talk and when to wait for the next question.
That distinction is trickier over the phone; a few seconds of silence can turn you into a radio DJ scrambling to fill dead air. Keep in mind that the interviewer may simply be taking notes, so don't talk just to avoid silence.
Follow the interviewer's lead
During the interview, you'll need to pick up on not just the content of the hiring manager's questions but also the tone. Don't be so fixated on your talking points that you miss these cues.If the interviewer seems relaxed and open, you can take more time answering the questions. If her tone is matter-of-fact and abrupt, focus on getting your points across quickly and economically.In either case, make sure you're listening, not just waiting for your next turn to speak. Asking a salient question in response to something the interviewer has mentioned can demonstrate your ability to think and talk on your feet.
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