I have interviewed a lot of great people in my time, and those talks stick out in my mind.
But so does the phone conversation with the women was yelling at her kids every few minutes without turning away from the phone ("I TOLD YOU I'M ON THE PHONE! NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ANOTHER COOKIE! STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER!). I also remember the time I obviously woke someone up, and he denied it while he slurred and stumbled his way through his answers.
In both those cases, I wish the person would have just rescheduled our call in 20 minutes or even the next day. The conversations were frustrating for me, and the outcome (a fairly lousy interview) didn't do anyone any good.
Putting your best foot forward is even more crucial if you're interviewing for a job. Consider these pointers from my latest Gannett/USAToday.com story and how your first "hello" means so much....
As employers try to whittle down what can be hundreds of applicants vying for one job, they're turning more to phone interviews to screen candidates and streamline the process.
Unfortunately, some applicants are not taking these contacts via phone as seriously as they should, wrecking their job chances with the first "hello," a phone interview expert says.
"People are answering the phone with a 'Hey, how ya doin'?' and crazy music playing in the background," Paul J. Bailo says. "What kind of message is this?"
Not the right one, says Bailo, founder and chief executive of Phone Interview Pro.
He contends that any phone contact is a way to build a relationship and never should be taken lightly.
"In a job search, everything you do or say matters," he says.
After research of what employers like and don't like in phone conversations, Bailo has developed advice that he believes will make the best impression and help you score a job. He advises job seekers to:
• Ditch the cellphone. Dropped calls, weird noises, feedback and a host of other problems mean you always should talk to employers on a land line.
If you don't have one, invest in one for your job search, he says.
Also, don't use a headset, which often can make it difficult for an interviewer to hear you clearly. If an employer calls, let your cellphone voice mail pick up, then call back on a land line.
• Don't multitask. When talking to an employer, don't tap away on your keyboard, fiddle with a pen or wash dishes.
An interviewer can pick up any of those sounds, and your tone will convey your distraction. Make sure it's clear that the conversation is your priority.
• Make a great first impression. The first 15 seconds can make or break a phone conversation, Bailo says.
Don't answer on the first ring. Let it go two or three rings before answering with a professional "Hello." Never say "Hi," which sounds too casual, or just state your name, which seems unfriendly.
• Be prepared. If you know an interviewer is going to call, make sure you've done your homework on the company and the interviewer.
Read the day's headlines so you're prepared to talk about current events if they're brought up. Have a cough drop or glass of water nearby in case you need them. While it should go without saying, Bailo says many people forget to visit the restroom before a phone interview, so he advises taking care of such personal needs beforehand.
• Shut out distractions. Get a babysitter for your children, post a sign on the door to not ring the doorbell and lock the dog out of the room.
You want quiet so you can concentrate and the interviewer isn't distracted with the sound of a howling child.
• Don't be too eager. When an interviewer asks to set up a time for a phone chat, don't jump at the first time offered, Bailo says.
"Tell the person you're not available then, but then give another time the next day. This shows you're in demand with other things. Remember, people like things they can't have," he says.
At the same time, he advises not answering the phone but letting voice mail pick up if an interviewer calls more than 15 minutes late. You then can call the interviewer to reschedule.
• Have a checklist. Make sure that throughout the interview you say things like "I am very excited about this position" or "I would be happy to be part of your organization," he says.
This eliminates any confusion that can come from not having a face-to-face conversation.
What other phone tips do you have?