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Talk is Cheap, Except in the Phone Interview

Phone InterviewIn the business world, when someone questions whether a colleague can "walk the walk or just talk the talk," it's usually the walking that's considered more important. But when it comes to the job search, sometimes "talking the talk" is the critical element.

Think of the phone interview. In many cases, this is the first and quite possibly last chance to market yourself for a position, and if all goes well, it serves as a steppingstone to better things. The downside is that you have only your voice to convince the interviewer you're a worthy candidate. The upside? If you come across well over the phone, you may win an in-person interview.

Many employers will use phone interviews, also known as phone screens, when they have a large group of qualified applicants for a position and want to winnow it to a more manageable number — say three or four — whom they would like to meet in person.

On that note, there are three important things to remember about a phone interview:

1. Be prepared. Always schedule the interview in advance so you can prepare for it, rather than answer a few questions on the spot. Aim for a date and time (even later the same day) when you will have the fewest distractions, and take the call in a place where you know you won't be interrupted. If you'll be taking the call on your cell phone, find a spot with the best possible reception.

As you would for an in-person interview, research the organization beforehand. Navigate their web site, do a web search on their issues and those in the industry. Jot down questions you would like to ask. Also, review the copy of your resume and cover letter you sent, and match up your skills and qualifications with what you believe to be their needs, so you can "sell" them on what they would gain by hiring you.

2. Be clear and direct. Rehearse the points you believe you'll be emphasizing, and make sure to deliver them clearly and without ambiguity. For instance:

I have a strong track record of sales experience with computer hardware over the last five years. You have a strong product, and I'm confident that my experience can help boost your revenue quickly and raise your rankings among the five players in this market.

Even though it's a phone interview, you can use your body to your advantage. Walk around the room if you feel it helps you emphasize important points you want to make.

3. Be sure the interviewer understands you. After each key point you make, ask the interviewer if what you said was clear. A simple question — Is there anything you'd like me to add regarding that issue? or, I understand I covered a lot in my answer, is there anything you'd like me to review? — communicates a sense of thoroughness to the interviewer and lessens the chance that you would not be giving your "full story" before they decide if they want to meet with you.

There's a lot to be said about this topic, and you can find more in Pongo's Learning Center. While a phone interview is not the most ideal forum for meeting with a prospective employer, you obviously must bow to their wishes. But these three tips can help you "talk the talk" effectively. Give them a strong impression and "walking the walk" may be the easier of the two tasks.

What advice can you offer regarding the phone interview? I welcome perspectives from both job seekers and hiring managers. Please share them in the Comments section.

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