DEAR JOYCE: I am one of the millions of job hunters who hope to find a job sooner rather than later. Although I haven't been interviewed by phone yet, I expect that will happen. In a budget cut, I canceled our landline phone and only use a cell phone. Is that a mistake? -- P.E.J.
A phone interview is a good sign that you're in the running for a job. It's a screening tool to make sure you are qualified with requisite skills and experience, and aren't disqualified by flaming red flags. If you pass muster, you'll be given an in-person interview.
CHOOSE RIGHT CITERIA.
Your best choice of phone for screening interviews depends upon the communication instrument's quality and reliability, as well as your degree of comfort with it.
The better your phone's technical quality, the better your voice will sound to the interviewer -- and that's the name of the game. Assuming there's no video, your challenge is like that of speaking with a blindfolded person who isn't influenced by your charming mannerisms or body language.
Good quality landline phones are clear as a bell. But bargain phones can create communication problems -- including a conversation-stopping need to replace the troublesome phone in the middle of your interview.
Mobile phones are the new normal. But even the best quality cell phones may suffer from audio mishaps at just the wrong time -- weak or dead batteries, crackling static, dead zones, dropped calls, cutting in and out, freaky weather noise that makes you sound as though you're stuck in a wind tunnel. Moreover, it's hard for some people to hear on a cell phone and your goal is to be heard as distinctly as possible.
On balance, my advice is to go for a quality landline phone with a cord. You can hold the phone or you can use a hands-free model to walk around the room and move self-marketing papers around on your desk -- resume, accomplishment sheet, the job description, questions you want to ask the interviewing screener.
Money tight? Even so, consider budget shifts to get your landline back until you reconnect with a job. Here are more suggestions about phone interviews.
Attempt to eliminate surprise goofs by not answering questions on the fly when a call comes in. Instead, schedule a slightly later call: "I'm very interested in speaking with you about my qualifications. But, sorry to say, this isn't a good time for me. Can we talk tomorrow? Or is there another time you'd prefer?"
If the only way you can be reached initially is by cell phone, give your landline number when you schedule an appointment.
The absence of visual cues may rattle you about the length of your answers. Don't clam up but don't go on and on. After making a statement, inquire: "Is this the kind of information you want? Have I adequately answered your question about my customer relations experience?"
DODGE SALARY QUESTIONS.
If the interviewer insists that you name your price, give a range -- one you've researched in advance on salary Web sites.
PUSH NEXT INTERVIEW.
Give the interviewing screener reasons to suggest that decision-makers meet with you. Hold back on a few key topics: "That's an important question. With my skills in technology, it's one I can't adequately answer over the telephone. Can we set up a meeting so I can show and tell my qualifications to the manager I would need to meet with before being hired?"
Ask about the next step in the hiring process and the decision-making timelines. Try to find out who is making the decisions. Follow up to see what's happening and don't give up after a couple of messages aren't returned. Yes, send a thank-you letter to the screening interviewer.
Job-Winning Tactics for Phone Interviews
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The phone rings. It’s a recruiter calling to let you know that all that hard work on your resume paid off and they’re inviting you to come in for an interview. You’re psyched up, until you hear about this new situational interviewing taking place -- now, you’re psyched out. Here's everything you need to know so you score a great situational interview.
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