Even the most confident applicants can let their nerves get the best of them during an interview. Several recruiters use the phone interview as a way to screen applicants and narrow the pool of which candidates to interview in-person. As we all know, first impressions are the lasting ones and can either make or break an employer's decision to put you through to the next round of the selection process.
So here's a look at how to ace your next phone interview and actually make it work in your favor.
Find a quiet space. This is harder than it looks, especially if you already have a job. You cannot participate in a phone interview from your work desk without everyone in the office knowing you are looking for a new job. At the same time, hearing "tall white chocolate mocha for Fred" in the background is not the best way to endear oneself to the interviewer. If you take the interview at home, you can't simply apologize for a barking dog or crying baby and expect to move on in the process. You must find a quiet place for the phone interview. It shows the interviewer respect, it allows both parties to hear one another completely, and it reduces the amount of distractions that could cause you to make costly errors when asked difficult questions.
Listen carefully. You cannot rely on body language to help you get through the phone interview. This becomes difficult during a conversation when you are unsure if your answers are satisfactory. As a result, job applicants always find themselves always over-answering the question, trying too hard to please the interviewer and often times seeming desperate in the process. At the same time, it is often common for the interviewee to talk over the interviewer when they excitedly want to answer the question. Listen very carefully. Make sure the interviewer is finished talking before jumping in. Listen for verbal cues that will help you determine if your answer is satisfactory. In the end, the best bet is to go with your gut and keep your answers quick and to the point.
Dress appropriately. Sometimes, rolling out of bed and participating in a phone interview actually hurts your chances of getting the job. Sure, unless it is Skype, the person on the other end can't see you, but a phone interview already makes it difficult to keep things formal. If you are dressed in your pajamas, you might end up acting too informal on the phone and unprofessional in the eyes of the interviewer. People act differently when dressed professionally. While you don't have to wear a suit and a tie, your attire should put you in the mood for what is one of the most important steps of the job search.
Cheat. The one thing a phone interview allows you to do is work off a script. While you don't want to make it obvious that you are reading off a paper (use your own words and maintain a conversational tone), it is very helpful to have a cheat sheet in front of you – information about the company you are interviewing for; questions you want to ask the interviewer; and answers to important questions about your experience. People get nervous on phone interviews when they realize it is not as easy as they thought, so sometimes a quick reference guide on your computer makes it just a little easier to stay focused and get to the next round.
Beyond that, the usual tips apply – research the company; prepare to answer questions about your greatest strengths, weaknesses and obstacles you had to overcome; be prepared for the all-important "do you have any questions" portion of the interview; and always follow-up by thanking the interviewer for his or her time and addressing any portions of the interview you might want to elaborate on further to help your cause. This should help you be in a better position as the interview process moves further into the live rounds.