Thanks to today’s saturated job market, many job postings receive thousands of qualified applicants – making the phone interview absolutely essential for identifying the top tier candidates. In fact, in my experience with IT recruitment, preparing for the phone interview is now just as critical as in-person interview prep.

Not sure how to prepare for a phone interview? Don’t end up on the wrong end of the dial tone: follow these tips for phone interviews:

Have a cheat sheet handy
Be prepared for your phone interview with a cheat sheet about the company and job opening (or have the company website loaded on your computer) and a copy of your resume. Review your resume; be ready to drive two to three accomplishment bullet points home during the interview, with quantifiable and measurable specifics. Finally, be prepared to take notes so you can speak intelligently and ask questions later in the interview.

Ask for a call back
Typically, a phone interview will be arranged in advance via email. If your interviewer calls unexpectedly, however, you can be caught off guard and fail to articulately answer his questions. Don’t let this throw you off. It is perfectly acceptable to tell your interviewer that you are finishing up a personal matter and request to call your interviewer back in 10 minutes. This will give you a few moments to gather your thoughts, your pen and paper, your resume cheat sheet, and anything else you need.

Minimize the risk for dropped calls
There’s nothing more awkward than a dropped cell phone call during a critical moment in the phone interview. I recommend talking on a landline inside a quiet room in your house. And don’t forget to smile! Even though your interviewer won’t be able to see you smiling, smiling while talking makes our voices sound friendlier.

Quantify your qualifications
The telephone interview is designed to weed out unqualified or overpriced applicants. Unfortunately, human resource team members often conduct telephone interviews. These generalists are validating your experience, your communication skills, and whether you would be a good fit for the company culture – not your professional potential or in-depth technical skills. However, you should still treat this conversation with the HR members as if it were a conversation with the hiring manager. Focus on your experience and quantify the contributions that you’ve made to your current employer. To move to the next level, you simply need to convince the person on the other end of the phone that you are indeed qualified for the job.

Beware the salary trap
Whenever possible, avoid discussing salary requirements during a phone interview. Applicants often rule themselves out with unrealistic requirements or undercut their value by offering too wide a range. The interviewer will zero-in on the bottom end of that range, while you really want to be at top end. If the question does come up, mention where your salary is currently at and that you would like an increase that is a “fair market offer”. This will help push the salary discussion to a later point in the interview process when it is more appropriate to discuss requirements in detail.

Ask Questions
Many candidates fail to ask intelligent questions during phone interviews; don’t make the same mistake. Asking questions will not only ensure that you have a clear understanding of the job and its responsibilities, but also provide an opportunity to show just how serious you are about this position.

Have you recently had a phone interview? How did you prepare? I welcome your feedback below.