The phone interview is almost always the first step in the hiring process – and one of the most challenging. In most cases, you’re speaking with someone you’ve never met and it’s difficult to get a read on how you’re being received on the other end of the line. Here are a couple of steps to help you prepare and succeed.

– Do your research! Get as much information on the company, it’s management team and the person you’ll be speaking with as you can. Much information is available on the company’s website as well as well as social media sites like LinkedIn.

– If a job description is available be sure to analyze your qualifications, skills and accomplishments and compare them to the position responsibilities and requirements. This will give you confidence during your discussion and allow you to answer questions thoroughly but succinctly. Remember, it’s a conversation – not a monologue. Answers should be limited to no more than one minute. It’s fine to check back with your audience to see if you answered his or her question satisfactorily.

– Be prepared to speak to your skills and accomplishments in an objective way. Whenever possible, validate your skills by providing quantifiable results of actions taken.

– Formulate three questions relevant to the position and the company. This demonstrates preparation and sincere interest.

– Smile. Smiling throughout the conversation will cause your discussion to be more open and genuine and will have a similar effect on the person you’re speaking with.

– Be professional and follow up. Whether or not you’re interested in the position after the call, be sure to drop a note of thanks to the person you spoke with. If you are interested in the role discussed, state clearly that you look forward to next steps in the process.