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Phone interview strategies...

The Hiring Process

Question: I’ve had a number of phone interviews, but I never seem to progress beyond that. I know the whole point of the phone interview is to get through it and obtain the more intensive interview at the company’s location. I do my research, I apply for jobs for which I am well-qualified, and I think my answers are pretty good; but here I am, not only without a job, but without even interviews. What can I do? Answer: It’s hard to say without having eavesdropped on your phone interviews. However, one thing you might not have thought about is this: how are your speaking skills? Many people have bad speaking habits, and aren’t even aware of them. Do you say “um” or “er” a lot? Or do you have some other verbal tic that perhaps you take for granted, that drives all your listeners crazy? Some people end every sentence with “you know” or “… and all that.” Some giggle when they are nervous (as anyone would be during a phone interview.) Some begin every statement with “um,” as in “Um, my name is….” One way to deal with this is to listen to yourself. Just being aware of it will help. Another option is to look up that friend who will tell you the truth you don’t want to hear. Ask him or her to be ruthless; you need to know the facts about this, for the sake of your job search. Yet another choice is to record yourself doing a mock interview, perhaps with your ruthless friend. This will clue you in to other potential problems too (e.g., do you speak too fast? Do you speak clearly? Do you take long pauses to think before you answer? Do you use a high-pitched voice when you’re nervous?) You could also schedule a mock phone interview with a Frederick County Workforce Services Board member. The staff member at the Resource Desk can work with you on this. A longer-term way to improve your speaking is to take a public speaking class, perhaps at Frederick Community College; or join Toastmasters, a club that teaches you to speak in public properly. Toastmasters will give you feedback, kindly but honestly, on many ways you can improve the way you talk. You can find more information on Toastmasters, including the locations of clubs near you, at Keep in mind that the phone interviewer has only one way to evaluate you: your phone presence. Your words are important, but if other factors get in the way, you probably won’t advance in the interview process. It’s bad enough not to get a job you want for lack of qualifications, or because you’re not the best candidate. To miss out because of something small that you can control is just a pity. Good luck with your next phone interview!