We’ve talked about how to answer the hardest interview questions, and even got tips from the Toronto Academy of Acting to help with nerves and confidence, but all of this skips an important step: the telephone interview. If your resume has managed to catch the eye of a hiring manager, it’s only the first step towards your ultimate goal. The next step is impressing enough during an informal phone chat.

“Before meeting a candidate, I always do a telephone interview,” says Ginette Desforges, an associate with Brio RH, a human resources management firm in Quebec. “It’s an important step in the pre-screening process.”

During the phone interview, she gauges the candidate’s availability, motivations and job expectations, past experiences, and salary expectations. Desforges also pays attention to a candidate’s language skills, particularly if they’re important to the position. “This process can avoid wasting the time of both the employer and the candidate,” she explains.

Have the right info on hand

The best way to ruin your chances when a potential employer calls you is to have no more than a vague memory of the job description and the organization. To avoid this, have a sheet of paper handy that lists, for each position you’ve applied for:

  • The job title
  • Required qualifications (and how your experience relates to it)
  • Name of the person you sent your resume to and their contact information
  • The date you sent in your resume
  • Some notes about the organization

Desforges recommends that you organize this information in a table or Excel spreadsheet. Claudie Hugueney, a Certified Human Resources Specialist and career transition counsellor with Phénix Conseils, prefers to use a traditional notebook, which can track your applications and job search progress. She also suggests having a copy of your resume handy, along with a list of your strong points and accomplishments. The goal is to be able to easily and quickly find all relevant information. As the saying goes: “he who hesitates is lost.”

Make sure you’re in the right place

If the recruiter phones while you’re shopping for groceries, taking care of the children, or otherwise occupied, reschedule for a mutually convenient time. Just make sure to be sure to thank them for the call and to show enthusiasm for the job while you’re doing it.

“The recruiter shouldn’t be upset,” says Desforges. “They will understand that people looking for work aren’t always available to talk. After all, it’s better to have a focused conversation, without the risk of interruption.”

Put on a smile

“I believe that you can always hear a smile,” says Desforges. Claudie Hugueney agrees, and goes so far as to suggest that candidates have a mirror handy to watch themselves during phone interviews. Facial expressions and posture can also be important; standing or sitting up straight and keeping a positive expression on your face communicates confidence, even over the phone.

The two specialists also agree on the importance of dressing every day as if you were going to work. “The clothes we wear influence our attitude and project an image, even over the telephone,” insists Hugueney.

Be friendly, polite, and professional

It should go without saying, but it can often get lost under the guise of an informal chat: you are trying to make enough of an impression to get invited for a face-to-face interview, so be polite and professional.

Hugueney believes that chatting casually is appropriate at the beginning and end of the conversation to put both parties at ease. She recommends trying to create a link with the recruiter while keeping the conversation professional. “Finding some personal link can make all the difference,” she says. “It can make the recruiter feel that you’re potentially a good fit.”

As the conversation wraps up, be sure to thank the recruiter for the call and to reiterate your interest in the position. The last few moments are also the ideal time to add a point that you forgot to make earlier. “Don’t be reluctant to revisit some part of the conversation or to add to an answer that you’ve already given,” emphasizes Claudie Hugueney. The end of the phone call is a key moment for making a lasting impression, she concludes. Make it count!