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Career Corner
Good Phone Skills Are Critical To Your Job Search

Caroline Ceniza-Levine -- Phone interviews are not easier or less important than live interviews. In fact, phone skills in general, not just for interviews, are a key part of the job search process.

Ignoring the importance of phone skills is a common job search mistake. As a former recruiter, most of my general interviews were via phone. Some recruiters use a phone screen for every search and reserve live meetings for finalists only. Furthermore, a lot of recruiting process work is via telephone: either you or your potential employer is leaving a message to schedule an interview or to check status. Although the term "telephone tag" recalls a childhood game, phone interactions are not play. Here are some tips to maximize your telephone interactions:

Have a professional message on your voicemail.

This is especially true for millenials who might still have college fraternizing on the brain. Loud music, slang, and funny voices do not make a good first impression.

Leave professional messages on employers' voicemails.

Make it short but complete. Leave your full name. Leave your phone number. Reference why you are calling, especially if you are returning their call. Don't make a potential employer have to remember who you are, think why you are calling or track down your number.

Treat cell phones as professionally as your primary phone.

If you put your cell phone number on your resume, you need a professional cell phone message. Don't answer your cell phone if you can't answer in a professional way. Just let it ring to voicemail, and call right back when you have your schedule book, pen and paper at the ready.

Return calls promptly.

Don't make a potential employer call more than once to schedule an interview. Some recruiters will call more than once, but some won't. In addition, jobs fill up quickly in a tight labor market like this one. If another candidate schedules an earlier interview and nails it, you have a smaller chance or none at all.

Help your housemates help you.

Tell the people who live with you about your job search, and let them know if you are expecting calls. Keep a pen and paper handy by the phone for messages. Keep children or younger siblings from answering the phone, if they can't take proper messages.

Phone interviews require different strategies than live interviews. You lose up to 80% of expressiveness without the physical, non-verbal cues so you have to ramp up the energy level to get your enthusiasm across via phone. Stand up to keep your energy high. Dress up for the interview to remind yourself to stay professional. Have water, resume, paper and pen readily available so the interviewer doesn't hear the clinking of glasses or you rummaging for your stuff.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine helps people find fulfilling jobs and careers, as the co-founder of SixFigureStart®, career coaching by former Fortune 500 recruiters. Caroline has recruited for leading companies in financial services, consulting, media, pharmaceutical/ healthcare, and technology. She is the co-author (along with Donald Trump, Jack Canfield and others) of the best-selling How the Fierce Handle Fear: Secrets to Succeeding in Challenging Times 2010; Two Harbors Press.

© 2013 Caroline Ceniza-Levine

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