Five Top Tips For a Great Telephone Interview

Looking for a way to increase your chances of getting a personal interview? You probably should in this day and age. In the good old days, the telephone interview was part of a much less sophisticated process. Employers were eager to meet with job seekers in person. They simply called you up, set the appointment and gave you the address and the time to come in for a personal interview. It was great, wasn’t it?

Over the years, time constraints got in the way. Then, the economy took a terrible turn and competition grew fierce. Employers became inundated with applicants and had to make changes in their interview practices. The telephone interview turned into an obvious choice when looking to save time and money – what better way to eliminate applicants than in an impersonal telephone call?

In this economic environment, the telephone interview is now either the golden ticket into an interview or certain death. So how can you be better prepared than your competition? Here are five quick telephone interview tips:

Tip #1
Prepare for the telephone interview just as you would for an onsite interview. Do your homework ahead of time and thoroughly research the organization. Use a couple of different tools to build a comprehensive profile of the company. Start with the company web site and then use additional tools such as an annual report and news articles to fill in the blanks. The local library, Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau are all great resources. Also, check out online sites such as Hoovers.com and corporateinformation.com. Don’t forget word of mouth! Use this information to gain a solid understanding of their business, their clients, their problems, and of course new initiatives.

Tip #2
Get your resume ready and have it placed right by your phone. Highlight some of your most notable accomplishments right on the resume so you can use it as a quick point of reference. Keep your responses closely aligned to the employer’s needs. Remember you want to prove you are going to be the person who can solve the company’s problems, so be prepared to provide examples of how you can do just that.

Tip #3
Do you have gaps in your resume? Are you uncomfortable with your answers to your reasons for leaving? Be completely prepared to discuss employment gaps, relationships with earlier supervisors, earlier roles, why you left, and whether or not you left on good terms. And, although there are some occasions when it might be nearly impossible to describe a supervisor with anything but scathing disdain, it is best to refrain! Make sure you’ve developed some strategies to overcome this challenge. Practice your answers with friends.

Tip #4
Plan on discussing the nature of earlier positions and describing your roles in detail. More than that, tell a story that demonstrates your success. Did you inherit a job that required a complete turnaround? If so, discuss the challenge, describe how you improved it, and have numbers to demonstrate how successful you were in effectively leading and implementing change.

For example: In my role as Executive Vice President of Fantastic Jobs at Best Company, I inherited a high profile project that was behind schedule and over budget. I worked closely with my team to get the project back on track. Using my project management background, I implemented a system using Magic Potion Version 7.0 that utilized a shared timeline/project calendar and monitored the tasks, issues, and resources related to each project. I set rigorous expectations and my team did an excellent job of tracking, prioritizing, managing, and executing each project to successful completion. Moreover, we came in under budget. As a matter of fact, I was so successful in meeting high pressure deadlines and top projects that I consistently exceeded client expectations. Because my clients were so satisfied, I generated 35% in new business through client referrals in 2007. Moreover, I increased existing client purchases by 27% by promoting our complimentary products and services.

Tip #5
Closing the call is a great strategy to employ especially in this economic environment. Before you end your telephone interview, reiterate your interest in the position. (Jill, after discussing the VP of Operations position with you further, I am definitely interested in the position and feel that my qualifications are an excellent match). Briefly describe the ways in which you are the best candidate for the position. (The experience I gained in the operations management position at XYZ Company will allow me to enter seamlessly into your operations director position). Next, try to set a date for a personal interview. (What is the next step in the process, Jill? Should I put aside some time next week for an interview?)

Being well prepared for a telephone interview will only increase your chances for a personal interview. Follow these telephone interview tips, remember to smile, and get ready to fill your calendar with interviews!

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