Due to the scores of resumes that hiring managers receive in a competitive job market, your initial interview will probably be conducted over the phone. To make the best use of their time, many hiring managers will filter through the stack of resumes and select the five to ten most promising candidates for a phone screening. Telephone interviews are an important early discriminator of potential employees. How well you perform on the phone interview will determine whether you are invited to an in-person interview with the employer.

Prepare for a phone interview as carefully as you would an in-person interview. Don’t let the seeming informality of a phone call make you take it any less seriously. You can gain a competitive advantage over less motivated or less informed job seekers through careful preparation.

Before the Interview
1.  Start by developing a phone script of the questions you expect to be asked along with notes on your prepared responses. Examples of the questions you might encounter are:

  • What type of work are you looking for?
  • What do you consider your strongest skills? Weakest skills?
  • How did you hear about this job opportunity?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why are you interested in working for us?
  • Do you have a college degree?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What are you doing now?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Are you willing to travel? How much (what percentage)?
  • When would you be available to start work?
  • When could you meet with us?

In response to each question, develop a clear, concise, and well thought out answer; and practice your responses ahead of time. Recording your responses and then listening to them lets you know how you sound on the phone. In developing and practicing your script, you will be ready to give a polished delivery in a clear and confident tone.

2.  Add to your script a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer, such as:

  • What are the duties and responsibilities of this job?
  • What would be the ideal type of person for this position? Skills? Personality? Background?
  • Who would I be working with in this position?
  • What does the future look like for this organization?
  • Is there anything else can I tell you about my qualifications?
  • Could I schedule an in-person interview at your convenience?
  • What are the top priorities for the person who will be hired?

Include some information about the company. Find out the company’s background and culture, and use social media sites such as LinkedIn.com to see if you have any connections to the company.

3.  In case of impromptu phone interviews, leave a copy of your script and your resume next to your home phone, and keep it handy at all times if you expect a call may come to your mobile phone.

4.  For scheduled phone interviews, be in a room with no distractions or noise (no computer, kids, pets, TV, etc.) and close the door. Only use your mobile phone if you’re sure to have a good connection. Disable call waiting so the call won’t be interrupted. Have a glass of water handy in case your throat gets dry.

During the Interview
5.  Behave during a phone interview as you would during a regular interview. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, some behaviors can transmit through the phone. For instance, if you are dressed well and sitting up straight you are more likely to exude a confident and professional tone. Also, smiling will be conveyed in your positive attitude.

6.  Give the interviewer your full attention with absolutely no distractions that could be detected or deter from your performance. Don’t interrupt the interviewer, and answer their questions fully but concisely.

7.  Thank the interviewer for the opportunity to speak to them, and ask for an in-person interview – the goal of the phone interview.

8.  Take notes during the interview to help you remember what the interviewer said. Your notes will help you follow-up later.

After the Interview
9.  Review your notes from the phone call and add more thoughts about what was discussed.

10.  Send the interviewer a thank you letter that recaps your skills and interest in the job and their company. Include in the letter any qualifications that you didn’t mention during the call.

If your phone interview is successful you will most likely be asked to interview in-person at the employer’s office. The preparation you did for the phone interview will set the groundwork for further preparation and research before your in-person interview.

Phone Interview Tips by Alison Doyle, About.com Guide