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Phone interviews are a cost-effective way of screening candidates and determining whether to advance them to the next round of the hiring process. Sometimes these interviews are conducted by an HR representative; sometimes by a whole panel of screeners. They average 20 to 30 minutes in length. Because the entire interview must be completed without the aid of nonverbal cues, candidates often feel anxious and defensive, especially during those awkward silences.

Here are three important communication skills to help you feel more at ease and more prepared for phone interviews.

1. Get organized.

Request a specific time when you’re not busy to minimize distractions and alleviate stress. Set up in a quiet place with paper and pen to jot notes; a copy of your resume, cover letter, and job posting to refer back to; water to sip; and lists of talking points; your accomplishments; and questions. You may even want to outline your responses to common interview questions, but do not read from a script. If possible, use a landline, not a cell phone, and do not answer call waiting during the interview.

It’s also a good idea to have a clock handy so you can make sure you’re not rambling. Your first response should be about 2 to 3 minutes. Have a calendar ready to schedule the next interview.

2. Be enthusiastic, stand up and smile!

 Answer the phone promptly and politely. Smile and exude friendliness. Even without being able to see you, enthusiasm can be detected. If possible, stand or sit erect so you sound more confident. Speak clearly, slowly and directly. Allow for silences as these are chances for your interviewers to absorb what you’ve said and take notes.

Jot down the names and positions of everyone interviewing you so you can give personalized replies. Repeat the question in the final sentence of your answer and use verbal cues such as “finally” or “ultimately.” Communicate thoughtfully and make sure you sound enthused, positive and interested. Listen carefully and never interrupt.

3. End it with affirmations.

 As the call is wrapping up, reaffirm your qualifications and your interest in the company. Ask where you stand and what the next steps are. Be grateful to the interviewers. Ask for everyone’s contact information so you can send thank-you notes. Do not bring up salary until the employer does, but be prepared to discuss it. Know what you deserve to be paid, and be prepared to negotiate. They should know you’re interested but, not desperate.


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