Make sure your next "phone screen" interview doesn't screen you out for the wrong reasons. Use these tips to sound more confident, speak clearly and demonstrate your seriousness about the job.

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An increasingly common occurrence in the early stages of the job interview is an initial phone interview. Born out of practicality, these short phone conversations are an easy way for interviewers to get an initial impression of job candidates in far less time than through in-person interviews. They can also be an easy way for job candidates to get booted out of the running if they’re not careful.

This is one of the reasons hiring managers sometime call theses interviews “pre-screening” calls. But by practicing the few tips below, you can improve your odds against getting caught in your next telephone screening dragnet.

Take it seriously. It may take place on the phone, and you may be in your bathrobe, but it’s still a job interview. Hiring managers have told me they often speak with job candidates who are far too casual in their speech or ask inappropriate questions about the workplace, not realizing that the person on the other end could be their prospective boss. Treat this as you would any other face-to-face interview.

Sit up straight. This may sound strange when the interviewer can’t even see you. But if you’re slumped in a chair, your body changes shape slightly and your voice comes out differently. It’s even worse if you’re lying down, and your tongue rests against the back of your throat, making you sound like you have a cold or you just woke up — neither of which is a great first impression.

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Teach yourself how to talk on the phone again. With so much of our lives being run by our smartphones, you’d think we’d be better at talking on them. But most of us communicate in written texts and acronym strings on a tiny video screen. Many younger job seekers may not have had as much experience speaking in complete sentences on the fly, so practice it out loud.

Use reference materials. This is one time you should have no excuse for being put on the spot. Since you don’t have to worry about making eye contact, keep a list of talking points nearby and have the company’s website open so you can respond professionally to expected questions. If you want to describe anecdotes that demonstrate your skills, have the outline of your story handy so you can quickly recall it.

Warm up your voice. In this instance, your voice is the sole means of communicating your worth – you can’t fall back on body language. So make sure that every word counts and is clearly understood. Talk a little to a friend or just out loud to yourself to make sure your vocal chords are in shape. You may even want to sing your favorite song to yourself, which can help in two ways — warming up your voice and reducing a little stress at the same time.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at