Phone interviews have largely replaced the first interview for a lot of companies and are often completed by someone in HR - not the hiring manager - to act as a screener for first round interviews. They are often asking questions to both weed you out and to figure out your fit for the job.
Some quick tips for the phone interview:
1. Try to schedule an early AM slot - you are fresher and they are less likely to be rushed or delayed by the slew of other duties they will face later in the day.
2. Find a private place - this limits the distractions or noises on your end and allows you some privacy to prepare, hold the interview and privately wind down or take notes on your impressions.
3. Stand up and walk around as you talk - funny how this works but you tend to sound more authoritative and strong when you are doing something vs. sitting at a desk or on a couch playing with a button on a seat cushion.
4. Make notes in advance of the call - these are your key talking points as well as the important topics that will likely come up with this employer. Phone interviews are like open book tests in school. Your ability to hit on all the right messages increases greatly if you can have a roadmap.
5. Smile as you talk - another funny one but it really works. It relaxes you and gives your voice a more confident and conversational sound. It may also help to create the right impression with the caller - remember, you are one of 5-10 people getting a call that day.
Tim Tyrell-Smith is a veteran consumer packaged goods marketing executive with a passion for ideas and strategy. He writes the blog Spin Strategy™ - Tools for Intelligent Job Search, a new efficiency-based job search strategy and tool set that is based on the concept of “plate-spinning". It helps place the right efforts against the right resources to maximize the return in job search. He created Spin Strategy in 2007 after coming out of his own job search experience with a desire to share his new found methodology with anyone needing support in finding that next great role.
You can view Tim's blog at http://quixoting.typepad.com/spin_strategy