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BOB GOLDMAN: New job phone home
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BOB GOLDMAN: New job phone home

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It’s an unlikely turn of events.

With virtual reality poised to take over our work and our lives, many companies are still using an archaic technology to find and hire employees. It’s called the telephone call.

It’s true! Before you don your VR headset and send your avatar to battle other applicants in the virtual playing fields of the Human Resources Department, you may have to suffer through a mundane phone conversation with a hiring manager who, like your mother, doesn’t understand why you never call.

And what should you say in what could be a life-changing phone call?

TheMuse.com has the answer. The job website has recently published “22 Phone Interview Tips to Help You Nail the Call (and Move to the Next Round),” by Alyse Kalish.

I don’t have time to discuss all 22 tips (I’m waiting for a phone interview for a top-level position at a major international bank.) (I’ve been waiting since 1997.) But I can provide a smattering of telephonic insights to help you nail the job of your dreams. (Just lay off my bank gig, OK? I’ve already got a Bentley on order.)

No. 1: Get clear on the details.

Know the time of your call and the name of the person you will be bamboozling (er, speaking to.) Be especially careful to note the number they’ll be calling from. This will allow you to demonstrate your ability to think outside the box.

“It’s obvious I’m a good match for your position,” you explain. “Adding the first 3 digits in your telephone number and dividing by my birthdate produces a number that is exactly one half of the Quincunx Pattern as adopted by the Hermetic Qabalah school of numerology.”

Few recruiters will fail to be convinced by this argument, which means that if you are hired, you’ll definitely be the smartest -- and the sanest -- person in the company.

No. 2: Make sure there’s excitement in your voice.

It’s easy to show your enthusiasm for a job when you are interviewing in person. On the phone, you only have your voice.

If you feel the general excitement level is sagging, don’t be afraid to break into song. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” is an excellent way to start a conversation with a recruiter, and when you have to respond to the inevitable, “Where do you want to be in five years?” can you imagine a better answer than a few soulful verses of “My Heart Will Go On”?

Hey, it worked for Kate Winslet.

No. 3: But talk slowly.

When talking on the phone, “make sure everything you are saying is clear and concise.” In other words, treat the interviewer as a not-particularly bright labradoodle you are trying to train. When asked an easy question, reinforce this behavior by saying, “Good interviewer!” If the recruiter tries to wrap up the conversation before you’ve convinced them of your wonderfulness, tell them to “sit” and “stay.”

Above all, be firm. Otherwise, by the time you go in for the in-person interview, the recruiter will be jumping on the couch and licking your face.

No. 4: Prepare your salary number.

Many experts say you should not limit yourself by giving a number. Others say that not giving a number suggests you have something to hide, which, of course, you do.

My advice is to be straightforward. If you’re talking to an HR professional, turn the question around by asking what their salary is. Say you’ll take double what they make. Point out that you will easily be twice as productive as some bozo conducting idiotic telephone interviews.

If they can’t see what a bargain you are, hang up. Who wants to join a company where the HR people make more money than the people who actually work?

No. 5: Dress the part.

Even though no one can see what you are wearing on a phone call, you are advised to choose an outfit that “makes you feel like the kind of person who could rock it in this job.”

To me, that says swimsuit, especially the high-tech kind worn by Olympic swimmers. They are designed to speed through whatever resistance you face, which is essential if you are going to get ahead in a large, soggy company.

If you don’t like your look in a swimsuit, even over the telephone, go with pajamas. In your PJs you’re sure to come across as warm and cuddly. And when you fall asleep halfway through the interview, you’ll be all ready for beddy-bye.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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