Ask Brad: How Can I Kick Some Serious Butt in a Phone Interview?

Four Tips for When a Prospective Employer Makes the Call

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It's 7:45 a.m., you're still in your pajamas and the phone rings. It's time for an interview. Seems normal, right?

If it doesn't, think again: Phone interviews are on the rise. Why? Quite simply, it's inexpensive, and it's an easy way for the recruiting director to screen candidates efficiently. It takes more time and money -- especially for out-of-towners -- to interview candidates in person.
Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JobBound, a career consulting company, and author of 'Confessions of a Recruiting Director.'

If you are looking for a job in advertising, you had better be prepared for a phone interview. It is going to happen whether you like it or not. Having conducted hundreds of phone interviews, I can tell you candidates make several mistakes. The biggest one is that people happen to sound quite boring; you lose a lot of personality when you talk on the phone. And when you add the fact that people tend to be more serious in an interview than in normal situations, the problem is compounded. But phone interviews can work to your advantage -- if you do them right.

Here are some tips to ace that next phone interview:

1. Get your game face on
I'm not suggesting you need to be dressed to the nines, but don't be sitting there in your underwear and a T-shirt that says, "You're driving me nuckin futs." Wake up early, take a shower and dress decently.

2. Talk beforehand
There's nothing worse than picking up the phone, saying hello, and sounding like Peter going through puberty on "The Brady Bunch." For those morning interviews, make sure you have spoken a few sentences out loud (to yourself, your spouse, your dog or even your David Hasselhoff poster) before it's interview time.

3. Go old school: Talk on a landline
This may be tough for some of you, but you definitely want to get on a landline. Preferably a corded landline (remember those?). I've had people's cellphones go dead or suffer from such serious static that we had to cut the call short. Not a good way to go.

And using a landline will ensure that you are in a silent environment. Caf├ęs, parks or the bus don't make for ideal interviewing locations. You won't be as focused, and your interviewer can hear all that background noise.

4. Be overly animated
This is the biggest mistake most people make. As I mentioned above, phone interviews tend to be boring. Why? I don't see the twinkle in your eye, and I can't catch the smile or nod that you make. You're a bit nervous to begin with, so you come off as monotone and personality-less.

Here's what you do. Get excited! Stand up, talk with your hands and plaster a smile on your face. It sounds crazy, but it will work (just make sure no one is in the room with you -- you'll look like a fool). If you can get one of those Janet Jackson headsets, even better. You may think you're going overboard, but when it comes through on the other end, it sounds so much more engaging and interesting. It helps you come to life.
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