10 tips for telephone talks

So you’ve done your networking and it has paid off. Now you have an initial telephone interview. Here are some vital tips for this vital interview.

1). Don’t discount it just because it is by phone. The phone interview is, in one sense, the most important interview you will have, even if it is just with H.R. Why? If you don’t pass this interview, you won’t get a chance to do a personal interview. See this as an essential part of your hiring process, not just a “hoop” you have to jump through.

2). Dress for the interview. I don’t mean that you have to wear a suit (unless you’re on a video application, such as Skype or the like). But dress in good business casual clothes. You’ll feel more professional than if you’re in your P.J.s. For a variety of reasons, never do a phone interview naked.

3). Put a mirror in front of you. Sit at your desk in a quiet room, and make sure you have a mirror in front of you. This will remind you to smile, smile and smile some more. A smile shows in your voice and will convey warmth and interest to the phone interviewer.

4). Keep It Short and Simple (KISS!). When you are a voice on the other end of a phone, things that sound short when in person can sound very long and boring. Keep your answers short and interesting.

5). Make your voice interesting. Learn to modulate your voice so that you don’t accidently put the interviewer to sleep. Where appropriate, sound enthusiastic. As painful as it might be, do a mock interview with a friend and listen to your answers on a digital recorder. This will help you make both your answers and your voice interesting.

6). Have notes in front of you. Unless you’re on a video call, the phone interview allows you to use extensive notes or your computer. Don’t read email or do anything else distracting with the computer when you’re on the phone interview, but have the computer available to look up essential information or to quickly access your notes. With permission, you can use notes in a face-to-face interview, as well, but you can use more extensive resources during the phone interview to convey your skills, make sure that numbers are correct, and talk about precise employment dates.

7). Don’t use the bathroom during the call unless it is an emergency and the phone is on “mute” for sure. One of my friends in H.R. was doing a phone interview with a candidate and heard funny noises. Then she heard a flush. Do I need to tell you that the man did not get the job? Try not to belch, cough or blow your nose into the phone, either.

8). Be prepared. You should have written answers to questions about your accomplishments, your strengths and weaknesses, your failures and the dreaded salary question.

9). Answer the salary question. I’m going to give you a secret to the most dreaded question of all – the salary question. Do this exactly as I’m about to show you. I can assure you, it has worked for dozens of my top executive clients.

Say, “Well [interviewer’s name], I was making $XK with a $YK annual bonus at my last position, and, if possible, I’d like to be in that ballpark. I do understand, however, that the economy is rough out there, so I’m more interested in the opportunity than the precise salary. I will be very happy to consider your best offer.”

Some people are afraid that they’re “low-balling” themselves. They aren’t. Most companies have a range that they won’t go outside of. Almost all candidates these days get offered the middle number of the salary range for the position, and most comparable positions pay similarly. The advantage to this answer is that, if you’re low, they can offer you the median and it will be a nice raise. If high, they might be able to go to the higher end of the acceptable range.

10). Ask about follow-up times at the end of the call. Ask the interviewer when you can expect to hear back about next steps, and what those next steps might be. Thank the interviewer for his or her time, and graciously end the call.

The phone interview has become much more important in these economic times, especially in relocation situations. Make sure that you are well prepared and ace this interview!

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