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Phone interviews: 5 tips for making the cut

Jun. 4, 2012 - 01:42PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 4, 2012 - 01:42PM  |  
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As employers try to whittle down what can be hundreds of applicants vying for one job, they're turning to more phone interviews to screen candidates and streamline the process. Unfortunately, some applicants are not taking these contacts via phone as seriously as they should, a phone interview expert says.

"People are answering the phone with a ‘Hey, how ya doin'?' and crazy music playing in the background," Paul J. Bailo says. "What kind of message is this?" Not the right one, says Bailo, founder and chief executive of Phone Interview Pro and author of "The Essential Phone Interview Handbook." He contends that any phone contact is a way to build a relationship and should not be taken lightly.

"In a job search, everything you do or say matters," Bailo says. His advice:

* Ditch the cellphone. Dropped calls, weird noises, feedback and a host of other problems mean you always should talk to employers on a land line. If you don't have one, invest in one for your job search. Don't use a headset, which can make it difficult for an interviewer to hear you. If an employer calls your cell, let voice mail pick up and call back on a land line.

* Don't multitask. When talking to an employer, don't tap away on your keyboard, fiddle with a pen or wash dishes. An interviewer can pick up on any of those sounds, and your tone will convey your distraction.

* Make a great first impression. The first 15 seconds can make or break a phone conversation. Answer with a professional "Hello." Never say "Hi," which sounds too casual, or state your name, which seems unfriendly.

* Be prepared. If you know an interviewer is going to call, make sure you've done your homework on the company and the interviewer. Read the day's headlines so you're prepared to talk about current events if they're brought up. Have a cough drop or glass of water nearby in case you need them. Take care of personal needs such as visiting the restroom.

* Shut out distractions. Get a babysitter for your children, post a sign on the door to not ring the doorbell and lock the dog out of the room.

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