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Due to the overwhelming response most job postings get, many organizations choose to screen applicants in telephone interviews in order to narrow the pool of candidates. This often goes for internal candidates as well. Phone interviewers save organizations time and money. This is especially true when hiring for management and senior executive level positions because of the lengthy interview requirements and overhead expenses, such as travel.

But whether you’re a CEO or a new graduate searching for a job, you should prepare and practice for telephone interview success. Here’s how.

Preparation

1. Have a plan. As you would do in preparation for any interview, take some time to develop a success plan. Start by mapping out your key strengths, talking points and qualifications as they relate to the position. While you would never read anything (including a script) while interviewing, having a few bulleted items on hand can help if you get sidetracked or when nerves take over. Plan your questions for the interviewer in advance. This way, you verbally reflect your preparation and respect the interviewer’s time.

2. Be organized. Have a copy of your resume, cover letter and job description printed out and in front of you. And because you’re not visible to the interviewer, you should also have the organization’s home page opened on your computer to refer to as needed.

3. Minimize distractions. In the age of technology, you need to be extra cognizant of outside distractions. Mute other phones, email and text alerts along with any incoming call notifications, as they can disrupt your conversation and train of thought. Discernible ambient music, television, doorbells, pets and children can also bring the interview to a screeching halt.

4. Pick the right time. The best time to conduct a phone interview is when you can flex a little time before and after. Normally, telephone interviews range anywhere from 15-60 minutes, depending on interest and your professional level, but be open if more time is required. Also, trying to squeeze in a conversation during work, while driving, or when you’re not at your best can negatively impact your focus. Ideally, schedule the interview when you’re well-rested and at home in familiar, comfortable and controlled surroundings. If you must take an interview away from home, find a private space where you’ll not be interrupted, observed, or feel the pressure of a time deadline.

5. Be forthcoming. If an emergency, major distraction, illness or unavoidable interruption occurs, be honest with the interviewer and ask to reschedule. More often than not, they will appreciate your honesty and respect of their time.

Practice

1. Answer professionally. Get in the habit of answering the phone with your name in a way that projects a professional demeanor and puts the caller at ease. Don’t let your family members, friends or children answer the phone. If you’re not in a suitable location to take the call, let your professional voicemail capture the message and return the call as soon as possible. Also, answer your phone in a timely fashion and don’t play coy by letting it ring for too long.

2. Observe body language. Even though you aren’t visible to the interviewer, body language and demeanor are easily detected over the phone. Yes, you can “hear a smile” because it adds energy to your voice. An interviewer will pick up on your interest in the position when you practice the positive habit of sitting up straight and leaning in as you would in a face-to-face interview. On the other hand, certain habits, like sighing, pacing, chewing gum, pen tapping, etc. may seem innocuous but will be detected and become a distraction during the interview.

3. Communicate thoughtfully. As you conduct daily phone conversations, practice your communication skills. Work on your tone, pitch and professional presence as you speak with others. Ask for feedback on how clearly your message was received and whether you sounded positive, enthused and interested in the conversation. The same goes for listening. When you deeply listen to the recruiter, you will discern their emotional response to your answers so you can re-calibrate if necessary. Practice the art of listening both in person and on the phone and see if you and your practice partner or coach feel confident in your approach.

4. Prepare for negotiation. The No. 1 rule of interviewing is to avoid discussing money until after an offer has been made. Still, you should be prepared for your negotiation as you launch your job search, as it will help you select the right language to communicate your interest yet maintain your desirability.

5. Practice gratitude. Too often, we take for granted that others understand our appreciation. Get in the habit of saying “thank you” more often. By doing so, you’ll be opening more doors and understand the importance of expressing gratitude. After a phone interview, in addition to communicating your “thanks,”craft a personalized thank you note to send or email the interviewer.

For some, phone interviews are more challenging than face-to-face. Finding the right way to make a positive impression without the aid of professional dress, demeanor and body language can come with obstacles. But if you’re prepared and have practiced your communication and listening skills, your chances for interview success increase. Mastering the phone interview doesn’t require a big investment of time — just focused concentration on preparation and practice.

Article Written By: Kim Monaghan on July 8, 2016 

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