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August 11, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Treat telephone interviews seriously

For many jobs, you must first get through a telephone interview before you’re invited to an in-person interview. Unfortunately, some of the worst interviews I experienced as a hiring manager were over the phone.

One job candidate took my call while he was driving. I could hear everything, from the traffic noise to ambulance sirens to the sounds when he stopped and filled his car with gas.

He could have simply sat inside his parked car. Instead, he wrongly assumed I wouldn’t notice that he took the call while driving. His behavior demonstrated that he didn’t take the phone interview seriously — and that’s a quick way to get eliminated from the job opportunity.

To increase your odds of advancing to the next step in the hiring process, treat telephone interviews with the same level of importance as you’d treat in-person interviews. Here’s how:

Act like it’s an in-person interview. Put the same effort into preparing for your telephone interview as you would an in-person interview: Research the company and industry, prepare potential interview questions and answers, and conduct practice phone interviews.

Test your telephone voice. Practice how you speak over the phone so you’ll come across sounding clear and at the right volume. Introduce yourself at the beginning using a strong, confident voice, and avoid answers that ramble or sound monotone. Feeling a little lethargic? Stand up when you talk to help you sound more energetic.

Eliminate background noise. Ensure that you hold the conversation in a quiet location. If you’re interviewing from your home, be sure no one will pick up another phone or accidentally interrupt the interview.

Have the right documents available. This includes your resume, the job posting, your list of questions for the interviewer, a notepad and pens, reference list, recommendation letters — everything you’d normally bring to an in-person interview. Put them on the desk or table in front of you for easy access.

Dress the part. There’s something to be said for putting on the clothes you’d wear to an in-person interview and wearing them for your phone interview. Just the act of getting dressed for the role of a job candidate will help you get mentally prepared.

Listen and think before you speak. Allow the interviewer to take the lead. Listen carefully and answer each question succinctly. Don’t go off on tangents when answering, and never interrupt the interviewer.

Finish with class. Practice asking questions that will help you uncover what the interviewer thinks of your qualifications and to find out the next steps in the hiring process. Reiterate your interest in the position, and thank the interviewer for his or her time.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career change, communication, interviewing, job search

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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