Here are the five required action steps to take during your phone screen to help move you forward to that all-important, face-to-face interview.
1. Brand yourself.
You're not the only candidate being called. A lackluster performance will get you quickly scratched. If you can differentiate yourself from the beginning, you'll rise well above your competitors. One of the surest ways to accomplish this is to develop a personal branding statement of your own. Also called a Unique Selling Proposition, this is a short sentence that describes who you are, your biggest strength, and the major benefit that you offer your next employer.
A personal branding statement might be: "I'm a seasoned Project Manager whose strengths in identifying and solving problems have saved my employers over $10 million while completing over $35 million in projects during the past nine years."
A branding statement like this makes you memorable because it's focused and it offers a benefit (saving $10M). If you develop a branding statement that clearly can identify who you are and what you can bring to an employer, you've caught their interest and separated yourself from the pack.
2. Show enthusiasm.
A positive attitude can go a long way in your marketing efforts. This is your opportunity to shine on the phone, so take full advantage. This is especially important if the call came at an "inopportune moment" and you feel caught off guard. If this is the case, remember, you're not the only candidate they're talking with. When the call comes, congratulate yourself, knowing that you were one of the few who did make the initial cut. Now it's time to put on your "game face"; join the conversation with pure enthusiasm and demonstrate the conviction that you are a top candidate for this job.
3. Listen and answer carefully.
One of the major complaints from employers and recruiters about candidates is that too often the candidate doesn't answer the question being asked. Since you're on the phone, this is especially critical because you don't have the advantage of visual cues such as eye contact or body language. Listen carefully to the question being asked and answer that question only. Don't ramble or try to anticipate the next question, or you may talk your way out of the next step -- a possible job interview.
4. Flatter them.
It pays to do some research on any company you apply to. After all, the question, "Why are you interested in us?” is going to come up. Therefore, it makes good sense to have your ducks in line before the call and to be ready to mention why this company impresses you. Don't be bashful. Mention the product line, their superior management, their unique marketing approach, etc. Make sure you have something positive to say about them.
At the end of the phone interview, if you would like to proceed and talk further with this company, take the initiative and ask what a good time might be for scheduling a face-to-face interview. If you feel uncomfortable asking that, then ask this simple question: "What's our next step?" This should eliminate any confusion and set the stage for your follow-up date, should you not hear back before then.
Most of all, have fun with it. It is a learning experience.