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How to succeed at a phone interview

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With shrinking budgets all around, many HR professionals have to do more with less. At times like these, phone interviews can be a great tool to help weed out any unqualified candidates before holding a first round of face-to-face meetings. They can be quick, easy to schedule, and conducted from anywhere.

Perhaps partly due to the convenience, candidates may underestimate the gravity of a phone interview. After all, it’s just a chat, right?

Wrong. No matter how casual your HR contact or recruiter sounded when they emailed you to set up a “quick phone call”, your phone screening is likely to be the first round of the official process.

To make sure you don’t ruin your chances before you’ve even set foot in the company’s office, we’ve rounded up some tips on how to ace your next phone interview.

Don’t talk too much

“The less you talk, the more you listen and the better you’ll do,” Bailo told Business Insider. Since you’re getting no visual clues from your interviewer, it’s harder to gauge if it’s time to stop talking or if they’re fascinated to hear more.

It’s safer to assume the first and keep things concise. If they want to hear more, they can always ask.

Look at a photograph of your interviewer

While this may sound a little odd, Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook”, told Business Insider that having a photo of your interviewer in front of you during the call will help you connect to the person and make you calmer.

If you can’t find their photo, Bailo says you can even use a photo of someone you take seriously, like a well-known authority figure.

Have your resume and cover letter in front of you

You’ll almost certainly be asked about some of the information on these documents, says Peter Vogt, Monster senior contributing writer. As such, you may as well take advantage of the fact that your interviewer can’t see you, and have your documents ready as a backup.

However, do make sure you know what they contain. You can look at them for support if needed, but there won’t be time to read through your whole letter to find out what you wrote down as your differentiating quality.

Don’t talk about your personal life

Unless your interviewer specifically asks, there’s no need to mention you’d normally be playing basketball on a Wednesday evening after work. “The point of a phone interview is to focus on getting to know a candidate’s professional experience and goals,” Mckenzie Roark, campus talent specialist at Lithko Contracting, tells Glassdoor.

Dress to impress

Not everyone agrees on this one, but some argue putting on a formal outfit will make you feel more confident and more inclined to take the call seriously. Additionally, it’s better to be overdressed for a phone call, than to be wearing your pyamas when it turns out they’d like to conduct the call via Skype.

ALSO READ: Oddball questions by Hong Kong interviewers

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