In the process of evaluating candidates for a position, employers use phone interviews to conduct preliminary evaluations and to pre-screen applicants. This method is a chance for you to to make an initial positive impression, and lets employers make a more informed decision on whom they will invite for an in-person interview, especially if the employer is paying for the candidates' travel to the interview. If you receive a request for a phone interview, a few considerations will help you sound professional from the very first moment of contact.
Respond immediately when you get an invite for a phone interview. If the invitation comes by email, respond by email. Return the phone call or message promptly. This will convey your interest in the position and give you more choice in scheduling a time for the phone interview. If you wait, the employer's schedule may fill up, and they may wonder why you took so long to respond. Accommodate the employer's schedule when scheduling a time and day. The scheduled time should be free of distractions for you, and during a time you are certain you will be ready to accept the call.
Decide which phone number is best for the interview, whether on a land line or cell phone, and confirm that number with the person who will call. Plan where you will take the call. If you will not be at home, determine a quiet place where you will not be disturbed or interrupted, and where you will not have to worry about street noise or other distractions in the background. Schedule a reminder on your computer or phone that day or night before so you won't forget the interview time.
Prepare for the phone interview as thoroughly as you would for an in-person interview. Answer the phone promptly and with your name. Take deep breaths to feel calm and present your background with confidence. Don't feel you need to rush to answer questions and pause for a moment if needed. A smile on your face and enthusiasm in your voice will transmit through the phone. Allow the interviewer to control the direction of the interview, but after she is finished questioning you, ask a question or two of your own. Thank the interviewer for her time and follow up with a thank-you note by mail or email.
Alison Lake has been a journalist and editor since 2001, working with numerous newspapers and magazines. She has served on the world news desk of the "Washington Post" and contributed to The Atlantic, Foreign Policy Online, Al Jazeera English and GlobalPost.