I've written before about phone interviews, and my friend Scot Herrick over at Cube Rules recently addressed the issue in a helpful post.
I think anyone can do well in a phone interview if they're prepared, but what happens when you get an ambush call? I know some recruiters like to do this -- call you during the dinner hour when the kids are screaming and the meatloaf in burning and the dog has just eaten a sofa cushion. You scream, a "dammit!" into the phone as you step in dog barf (the dog didn't like the cushion so much) and suddenly your career is teetering on the abyss.
Be aware that no matter your level on the career ladder, a hiring manager or recruiter is not above pulling a stunt like this. To be prepared, here are some tips:
1. Set some groundrules. Children with less than stellar telephone-answering skills should be asked to refrain from answering the phone, unless they can tell from caller i.d. that's it's grandma. If you've given your cellphone as the contact number, keep it out of anyone else's reach, and don't answer it when you're in rush hour traffic or eating lunch. Call back when you can find a quiet place to talk.
2. Be prepared. Have copies of your resume and talking points near the phone. Also near the phone should be a file organized with the correspondence needed to communicate with specific employers. Note the names of contacts so you won't fumble around searching for names in your memory banks.
3. Remember to breathe. Don't pick up the phone until you've taken and released a deep breath and you're away from a chaotic atmosphere.
4. Stay professional. While the recruiter may have called you at home, this is anything but a casual chat. Just because you're in your bunny slippers doesn't mean you should let down your guard and get too chummy or casual. Be wary if the call is on speaker phone -- you never know who else might be in the room.
What other tips do you have for unexpected phone interviews?