Practice your family phone drill

If you are unemployed, you need to get your family involved in this very important aspect of the job hunt. They need to be on your side when it comes to a phone interview. Dogs barking, doorbells ringing, babies crying, music in the background, the laugh track from the television, pots and pans clanking -- all these are not good. When you get a phone interview, figure on a quick signal to alert everyone in your home. People (not you) should rush around turning off things and ditching the dog. (Don't ditch the baby, but try to have someone else take care of your young kids, even if it is Big Bird in another room.)  Someone should hang a pre-made sign on the door that urges guests not to ring the doorbell. You should retreat, calmly, to a private room, if possible, and close the door.

This room should already be set up for this purpose -- meaning that you have already located the phone, figured out where you'll set or stand, and put a job-hunting folder in a convenient place near the phone so you can find it quickly. Think whether you need a clipboard. Practice rehearsing this, so it goes smoothly. Maybe someone can call you so you can try it all out. Pick awkward times, like 3:15 when everyone is rushing in the door after school, or when you are in the middle of cooking dinner.  It's like a fire drill!

If you know the interview is coming,  it wouldn't hurt to print out some kind of notes about the place and place it in a folder. I'm thinking about the kind of folder that has two pockets, one on each side. Make sure the folder has some blank paper and a pen that works for taking notes.

On one side, the folder should have your cheat sheet with personal statistics, facts and main talking points about you. On the other side, you should have the company information. You should have a copy of the job description. You should have three to five talking points that relate to the job. You should have several questions ready. Of course, you should go on the company website in advance to review company information. If you can find a picture of the person you are interviewing, that might help you feel more comfortable and connected.

For general preparation, it wouldn't hurt to make a cheat sheet for each job you are seeking and put it in the folder. File them alphabetically so you can find them quickly and not have to root around in a panic. Have the pertinent information about the job, a question or two and any name that you may have. Also create a general list of two or three questions that can apply to any job. This is the kind of thing that you should carry in your car and put next to each phone.

Remember: The more prepared you are, the less flustered you will be and the more confident you will sound.

These tips come from Beverly Ehinger Evans, assistant dean of student affairs for career development at York College, in York, Pa.; Cynthia Favre, director of career management at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.; Dwayne Keiffer, assistant director of career services at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. and Gloria Leidel, a career counselor at Goodwill Industries of South Jersey and Philadelphia. A little more on this tomorrow...