A young friend wishes he could have had a second chance after blowing an impromptu phone interview the morning following his best friend’s bachelor party.  You get the point. . .he didn’t get the job. 

Many companies make impromptu calls to job prospects, especially if they are being considered for public-facing jobs.  I learned this from the CEO of the company that didn’t hire my young friend.  He said they intentionally make calls early in the morning and only consider applicants who nail the initial phone interview.

My friend really wanted this particular job, and realized he should have let the call go into voice mail until he recovered.  Fortunately, he was better prepared for the next several phone interviews and is now gainfully employed.   Here are some of the lessons he learned and how he prepared himself for subsequent phone interviews. 

Plan for the call.  Ideally, the recruiter will pre-arrange the call via email so you can be sure to find a quiet place for the conversation.  Think through logistics for the spur-of-the-moment call, and use “silence” hand signals if you are with others and can’t get to a private location.  Background noise and barking dogs are a distraction for both the interviewee and interviewer.  Have a “cheat sheet” handy with information and questions regarding your main job prospects.  This helps you come across as both informed and interested. 

Professionally Answer All Calls.  Thanks to cell phones and caller ID, it’s easier to control your incoming calls and whether you answer them immediately.  But if you share a phone line, be sure to ask others to be on their best behavior when answering calls.  First impressions are critically important.  Answer in an upbeat voice and identify yourself rather than simply with “hello”. 

Short Answers.  High Energy.  You can’t assess body language of the interviewer, but you can influence perceptions by giving clear, concise answers in an entergetic manner.  Refer to your notes, but don’t read them.  Be prepared for the often-asked two final questions:  1).  Do you have any questions about the company or position?  2).  Do you have anything that you’d like to add about yourself that I didn’t cover?  An effective response to these open-ended questions demonstrates your interest in the job and sets you apart from those who are so nervous that they just want the call to end.  Sometimes the recruiter will share the next steps in the process.  Key is to come across so persuasively that you end the conversation with an invitation for an in-person interview with the hiring managers. 

Relax.  Be Yourself.  A couple of deep breaths before you answer the phone will pump some oxygen into your brain to help jump start the conversation.   This is especially important if you’re in bed when the phone rings.  Let your confidence, enthusiasm and personality come through.  But don’t try to be someone you’re not.  Your authentic “voice” will carry the day in a phone interview.