Phone interviews are an incredibly critical tipping point in the hiring process.  They liked what they saw your resume enough to talk to you…will this phone call make them like you enough to call you in for a face-to-face interview?  There’s a lot you can do to prepare for phone interviews and make sure that happens.

In the beginning, take control of the call.  Unless they’re ambushing you on purpose, you can usually choose the time and the place for your phone interview.  Use your power.  Choose a time you’ll be most alert.  Pick a place that’s quiet.  No cars, restaurants, or anywhere there might be people talking.  You must be in top form with no distractions.

Find a landline.  It’s not very sexy, but it is effective.  It’s a lot less attractive to keep saying, “Are you there?  Can you hear me now?” than it is to have a guaranteed problem-free phone call. 

Do your homework like an A+ student….  Before your call, research the company and even the interviewer as much as you can.  It gives you an advantage to know who you’ll be speaking with.  And, it makes you look smart.

…But cheat like you partied instead of studied.  They can’t see you, so there’s no reason you can’t keep your “cheat sheets” in front of you:  your resume, all your notes, all your questions, anything that might help you.  Lay it all out in front of you like you’re playing high-stakes BINGO.  But make sure you know where everything is.  You don’t want them to hear you shuffling papers.  It will give you away.

Write down a list of great questions to ask.  Ask great questions like “What does your ideal candidate look like?” and “What are the biggest challenges for the person who takes this role?”  Use your research to come up with some, too.   

Practice answering typical interview questions.   This is one of the most important steps you can take to prepare for your telephone interview.  Why?  LOTS of reasons.

(1)    Interviews make people nervous.  Nervous people do crazy things, like forgetting what they wanted to say.  If you practice answering typical questions before your interview (and by that I mean actually saying them out loud, to another person if you can), they will roll off your tongue much more smoothly and confidently. 
(2)    The interviewer knows you know you’ll be asked certain questions.  If you answer basic, typical questions with “Hmmm…let me think about that,” you’ll look like you didn’t take the time to prepare.
(3)    Your answers in this interview COUNT.  This is the gate you must pass through to get to the face-to-face interview.  Whenever you can, make sure your answer is going to get you through that gate.  One of the best ways to know is to practice beforehand and see how it sounds.
Dress like they will see you.  Take the time to dress for success, even though they can’t see you.  How you dress makes a difference in how you behave.  Look sharp and you will feel sharp.  That confidence will carry through the phone lines.  (Because you’re on a landline, remember?)

Take care of all your bodily functions before the call.  Feed yourself, go to the bathroom, and get a glass of water (no ice) to keep by your side in case your throat gets scratchy. 

Find a pen and paper to keep in front of you.  You want to take notes while you talk so you can remember what they said for later questions and your thank you note.  Plus, you never know when you’ll be asked to write something down.  It’ll just be embarrassing if you have to say, “Let me find a pen.” 

Get ready to…smile.  Smiling while you talk helps you sound like you’re friendly and confident, even if you’re shaking in your shoes. 

It’s going to be worth every bit of the time and effort you spend getting ready for this call.  You have a lot of opportunity to tilt the scales in your favor. 

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee is a career coach and the CEO of Career Confidential, a website dedicated to helping job seekers get the jobs you want fast. Learn more on the Career Confidential website => 

Find more phone interview tips in our blog series, Phone Interviews: The 37 Most Essential and Extraordinary Tips That Will Get You To the Face-to-Face =>