So, you've been selected for a telephone interview. Great - you're obviously attracting the right sort of attention. But what does it actually mean and how can you maximise this opportunity? Telephone interviews are becoming more and more common and their importance cannot be overstated. This can be the gateway. The opportunity to be invited back for a face-to-face interview. Or even, increasingly nowadays, this could be it. This could get you the job. So you need to take it seriously and get it right. Here are our top tips. Preparation is key Treat this as you would any other interview (and if that means you sit on your backside watching TV then you need to rethink your strategy!). Spend some time researching the potential employer. Look into the company ethos, their size and structure, the products and/or services they provide and what the market is like including who their main competitors are. Ensure you have read the job description and your own CV and keep copies of both to hand during the interview if only to aid your memory for details. Another good idea is to prepare some questions for the interviewer ahead of time - you may want to consider the role itself, the culture within the company and what opportunities are available for your development within the firm. Behave as if you can be seen Whilst telephone interviews can feel very different and perhaps less formal than a face to face interview, it is sensible to act as you would if you were in a room with the interviewer. They may not be able to see you (we hope anyway!) but research has shown your body language should not reflect this. Sit up straight or stand up when talking on the phone and make sure you smile, this can actually be heard by the person on the other end and seems positive and upbeat. When you get ready in the morning, make sure you dress professionally as this will help you feel businesslike. Don't stay curled up on the sofa in your pyjamas! It is vital you don't have any distractions. This means the television and any music should be completely off, with no flickering images in the corner of your eye diverting your attention and making you stumble on your answers. No other people should be in the room with you, no matter how well-intentioned or helpful with practice they have been. It will not help if someone who can't really hear the questions is mouthing answers at you or flapping bits of paper under your nose! In addition, if you use a landline (which we would recommend to ensure a clear connection) then please ensure your mobile phone is off or, at the very minimum, on silent. It will not make you seem in demand and professional if your Darth Vader ringtone goes off in the background. Get organised Prior to the interview, make sure you confirm the details and understand the process. What time and date will it be? Who is interviewing you and what is their role in the company? Who is phoning who? A sensible idea to immediately make you feel more professional is to clear a workspace. Whether this is the end of the dining room table or an bona fide home office, set yourself up with any paperwork you may need during the interview, some pens and paper to take notes and a glass of water. It may feel a bit silly but if you have had no reason to talk that day then make sure you do before your interview, even if it's just saying a tongue twister out loud. You do not want to start by trying to say hello, realising you have a tickle in your throat and coughing down the phone at them! We mentioned having a copy of your CV at hand but other work you can complete ahead of time can also help. For example, you could make a list of your own strengths and weaknesses; match your qualification and/or skills to the relevant parts of the job description and even compile a 'cheat sheet' with anecdotes to help answer typical interview questions. Practice If you can, rope a friend or relative in to help you practice prior to the interview. If you can't find someone then make a list of questions and just practice answering them out loud in front of the cat. In either case, record yourself. This will probably make for uncomfortable listening but it can really help to highlight areas you need to work on. Things to watch out for include the speed at which you speak; most people need to slow down and give more time to an answer, even if it feels unnatural. Enunciation is important; the interviewer must be able to understand what you say. Watch out for any verbal ticks or filler speech, such as um, ah, and (for the generation Y and millennial candidates out there), the dreaded "like". Make sure you don't interrupt the interviewer, allow time after they seem to have finished a comment or question before you answer, though don't allow it to stretch into an uncomfortable, awkward silence! With telephone interviews an integral part of many interview processes, it is important to hone your skills. In many ways, it is ideal to treat it in the same way as a face to face interview but there are some key differences to be aware of and allow for. It is much easier to be distracted or act less professionally when you feel unobserved but this will affect your performance on the phone. It is also harder to read reactions from the interviewer so pay attention and listen to what they say, taking notes if you need to. This is your opportunity to show how perfect for their firm you can be. Good luck!