8 Phone Interview Tips That Will Land You A Second Interview

By Jeff Gillis

Congratulations!

Your resume is stellar, your application was impeccable, you’ve caught a potential employer’s attention and now they want to get to know you better.

In years gone by that would have meant an in person interview but in today’s increasingly busy digital world, many preliminary and some final interviews are being held in a wide variety of mediums including on the phone.

A phone interview? As in, we talk on the phone and not actually in person? As in, they have NO idea what I’m actually wearing during the interview!? This is AMAZING!  

Great, right?

FREE BONUS PDF CHEAT SHEET: Get our "Phone Interview Questions & Answers Cheat Sheet" that gives you word for word sample answers to the most common phone interview questions that you can use in your next phone interview.

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Nothing like an interview for your dream job where you can lounge around in your pajamas, secretly watching TV out of the corner of your eye and, gasp, maybe even surf the web at the same time and update your status to “Kickin’ it in my footie jammies knockin’ out my interview!”

No…this guy isn’t ready for his phone interview!

Not so fast. Yes, it’s true, your future boss might not need to know that you’re on the other end of the line in your favorite Scooby Doo flannels, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat the phone interview as seriously, if not more seriously, than any other standard interview.

But..but…but…

No buts.

Just because you’re not face to face with a potential employer doesn’t mean it’s time to throw all our hard learned interview rules out the window.

A good old telephone interview might sound like the perfect opportunity to slack and kick back, but in actuality, you have to work even HARDER to make yourself stand out to a potential employer.

But before we dive into the actual tips for phone interviews:

Why do some employers ask for phone interviews in the first place?

  • In order to quickly eliminate you as a candidate. This is especially common in big companies. Instead of spending the time and resources needed to bring you in for an in person interview they’ll want to see if you give them a reason to cross your name off the list.
  • Interview candidates that are out of town or aren’t able to attend an in person interview for whatever reason.

The point is, this is probably your first point of real contact with the company. While you’re not going to land the job from phone interview (most likely) you certainly can lose it!

Unique as phone interviews are in the job hunting world, at their core they are still pretty similar to any other interview and should be taken just as seriously…if not more seriously.

More seriously? Is that even a thing?

You bet your Scooby Doo flannels it is.

You see, one advantage an in-person interview has is the employer gets to physically meet you…shake your hand, and see one on one just how the chemistry works.

All of these things, which might seem rather insignificant in the moment, are actually critical parts of any interview.

When you’re interviewing via phone, you’re going to have to work even harder to make sure you are coming off as personable, capable, and above all…the perfect candidate.

So how do you prepare for this bold new frontier of employment screening? Luckily almost all of the standard rules from in person interviews still apply, so the basic prep work is essentially the same but there are some tips specific to phone interviews than can really be of help:

 

8 Phone Interview Tips

 

1. Take It As Seriously As An In Person Interview

THIS IS AN INTERVIEW! Treat it like one! That means be ready! Make sure you’re well rested. The last thing an interviewer wants to do is feel as though they’re interrupting something else you’re doing, or worse, woken you up.

When your interview is first scheduled, make sure you set aside time BEFORE the interview to prep for it.

If it’s an early morning interview, make sure you’re “going” before the phone rings.

Get up, get moving.

Get your vocal cords warmed up. Brew a cup of coffee or tea and be ready for your day. Brush your teeth!

Speaking of getting up and going…that means changing out of your jammies too.

But they’re so comfortable!

No. No. No. No.

This is just as much a mental game as a physical game and dressing the part (even if they can’t see you) can really help you kick your mind into the right frame to get you the job. If you’re slouching around and being lazy, it will come through in your interview…even if you’re trying your hardest to fake it. Trust us, interviewers will know…

Dress the part…get the part.

JEFF'S TIP

If you get a phone call out of the blue and you think it could be for a phone interview, I would suggest letting it go to voice message, listening to the message, prepare for the phone interview appropriately and then call them back ready to rock. - Or - If you do happen to answer the phone unknowingly, let the interviewer know that you aren't able to speak freely and ask if you can schedule a time for the call. DON'T TRY AND WING IT!

 

2. Focus And Cut Out All Distractions

Make sure you’re not distracted. Turn off the TV. Let me repeat that. TURN OFF THE TV.

Nobody wants to ask you about your past performances and work history and hear Sponge Bob in the background.   Don’t think putting it on mute is good enough either. People can tell if you’re distracted and delaying your answers to a potential employer because you’re reading the crawler at the bottom of FOX News isn’t going to score you any points.

Get comfortable, but don’t get too comfortable.

Find a good spot to sit down and have all your prep materials nearby for easy access.

Sit at the kitchen table or at a desk.

Don’t lay down. Don’t slouch. Make sure distractions are not going to be an issue.

If you’re doing the interview at home and you’re not alone, make sure everyone knows you’re going to be busy for a bit and to give you some privacy. Put the dogs outside. Pop in a video for the kids. Have your spouse keep everyone calm. At the very least go into a room where you can shut the door and focus on the task at hand.

So, now that you’re up and dressed, let’s get ready for that interview!

First and foremost, make sure you’re presenting yourself in the most professional way possible, from the very first “Hello,” all the way to the “Goodbye.”

 

3. Do Some Research Before The Interview

Odds are you’ve applied to more than one company and it’s always helpful to know a bit about who you’re talking to, from both a professional and a business standpoint.

Double check the job description you’re interviewing for.

Google the company. See how they’re doing and what they’re doing.

If you know who’s doing your interview you can see what sort of digital footprint they have and find out more about them on a personal level. Look them up on LinkedIn but don’t go overboard.

It’s never a good idea to send them a Facebook Friend Request before you even have the interview…in fact, it’s probably not a good idea afterwards either. Maybe in six months when you’ve already got the job and you’re all good friends having lunch twice a week…but not yet.

The best part about doing this research is it also allows you to tailor your answers when you start getting hit with those interview questions.

Tailoring your answers is the best possible way to ensure that not only are you satisfying what the interviewer is asking, you’re positioning yourself to be the best possible candidate for the job…or, dare we say…the perfect candidate!

Remember as you’re pouring over all those notes you culled about the company and what they stand for that your ultimate goal is to be everything they need in a candidate and that means making sure your answers are specific, targeted and tailored…in a nutshell, customized.

They’re looking for a specific set of knowledge, skills and abilities and it’s the person that embodies all of these that is going to get the job…and if you tailor your answers and show that you’re (honestly) that person…well, then…welcome to your new career!

Need a refresher on tailoring? Check out our Job Interview Questions and Answers 101” article. Trust us, you’ll thank us later!

 

Before you continue, be sure to get our phone interview questions and answers cheat sheet. In it you’ll get word-for-word sample answers that you can use on your next phone interview. Click here to get the cheat sheet.

4. Listen And Don’t Dominate The Conversation

Yes, this is an interview which means they’re going to be asking you questions, but it’s also an opportunity to show your potential employer that you’re good at listening too.

Talk, but don’t dominate the conversation. Let the interviewer guide the conversation.

Answer the questions, but don’t turn it into a one sided monologue. This is as much about you getting to know them as it is about them getting to know you.

Keep a pencil and paper nearby so you can jot down questions and notes and save them for the end.

Ask a few follow up questions but don’t flip the interview onto the interviewer. It helps to reinforce to the interviewer that you’re truly interested in the company and the job and that you’ve paid attention during the interview.

Have a copy of your resume with you so you can reference it at any time. Keep your answers honest, thoughtful and reflective.

Make sure you breathe and speak clearly.

Most importantly, smile! Sure, they might not be able to see it, but your tone of voice will reflect it.

 

5. Prepare Your Own Cheat Sheet

Like all good interviews, it’s not just about answering questions, but asking the right ones as well.

The right questions not only help you get information you might need to make an informed decision regarding the job, but it also helps confirm your qualifications as the ideal candidate for the position.

Ask about the different aspects of the job and express genuine interest and excitement in the opportunity.

Take the time to make sure that this is the organization you want to work for…it’ll save you a ton of heartache and headaches in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to dig for more details about the position and the company.

Ask questions about the job that weren’t covered in the job posting…ask about specifics and get details.

You need to know exactly what you’re getting into before you say yes to the job…

Make sure you prepare your own list of questions before you start. Make sure your questions are thoughtful and have a purpose.

Need some examples to use or ideas to kick start your own list? Check out our “Top 14 Questions to Ask In An Interview” blog post.

Remember though to keep these questions short and sweet. Again, remember, “It’s not about you, it’s about them.” How can you fulfill their needs?

 

6. Slow Down

Take a beat (or a breath) between the interviewer asking you a question and when you start answering it.

Sometimes people ask questions but then continue to talk rather than waiting for you to answer. Give the interviewer a second or two after each question before you start so you don’t both end up talking at once…which can be awkward to say the least.

Also, as you’re pausing, it gives you a chance to really think about what you’re going to say rather than just rattling off whatever happens to pop in your mind first.

Be thoughtful. Be thorough. Be concise.

And speaking of taking a breath, don’t forget to breathe during those questions!

Take your time and pronounce your words clearly. Speak slowly enough to be understood. You’re interviewing for a job, and unless that job is for a carnival barker or auctioneer, slow down!

At the same time, don’t be so slow you drop into the dreaded monotone robot. You need to have enthusiasm in your voice while you interview and the easiest way to interject that is to smile!

That’s right…smile!

The interviewer might not be able to see it, but they will be able to hear it…and that can go a long way in making you stand out for all the right reasons.

 

green-question-mark-small7. Be Ready For Common Phone Interview Questions

Speaking of questions (which you should already be prepping for by doing your research and running through our list of practice questions and answers) there are phone interview specific questions you should prepare yourself for as well.

We can’t guarantee that the interviewer will ask you these, but it’s always better to be prepared so you’re not caught off guard if they are asked! Practice answering them before your interview.

It’ll not only help with nerves (it’s like knowing the answers to a test before you take it!) it’ll make your responses more targeted.

 

1. “Are you willing to relocate for this job”

Odds are, if you’re doing a phone interview, it’s because you’re not in the same area the work is.

This is a question you should ask yourself LONG BEFORE the interviewer does…and one you have to answer honestly! There is no fudging this question. If you can’t move, say so. If you can, say so.

 

2. “Will you travel for this job?”

Again, one you should consider before the interview. This one might be a little easier than the first question as it means you should be able to come back to wherever you are right now…but again, keep in mind what this means to both your professional and personal life. Be honest. Be honest. Be honest.

 

3. “What interests you about this job?”

If the job requires you to relocate or to do a lot of traveling, then hopefully your answer is “travel!” Generally if you’re calling from a location far from where the job is actually located, odds are this is a question you’re bound to get…especially if there are other comparable jobs within your geographic area.

When you answer this question, make sure to tailor the answer to fit the qualifications listed in the job posting, then loop them back to connect to your skills and experience. You want the employer to see you not only know about the job you’re interviewing for, but that you’re qualified and a good fit!

 

4. “If you were hired, how soon can you start?”

Oh boy. If you’re an out of area hire and are required to relocate, this answer is far from a simple one.

First off, don’t ever answer with “Now!” Not only will you come off as desperate, but if you’re already employed with another job, you’re going to have to do the right thing and give notice.

It’s easy to get intimidated (or excited) and over-commit to an early start date…but the worst thing you can do is give a date to a new employer and then have to ask for more time. Not the right way to start out your long and mutually beneficial working relationship! Then you have to factor in the actual logistics of making a move.

Even one just across town can be as daunting as one across states…or in some cases, countries!   Depending on the size of your move (don’t forget to factor in things like other family members, kids, pets, spouse, etc.) you could be looking at anything from a few days to a few months.

Again, be honest!

Many employers, if they’re genuinely interested in hiring you, will have programs in place to help you relocate and ease the burdens that come with a full move.

If they don’t, make sure to take that into consideration as well.   Words to the wise…always ask for MORE time than you initially think you’ll need. Trust us, in the long run, it’s far better to have more time than you need than to run out and have to ask for an extension.

One thing NOT to focus on during an initial phone interview is salary…at least not until you’ve had a chance to read our article “When And How To Discuss Salary During The Job Interview Process.

 

8. Send A Thank You Email After Phone Interview

No, this isn’t a good enough thank you note!

Remember, this stage is about making good first impressions and the fact that you’re doing this all via phone makes the follow up even more critical.

Make sure you not only end your phone call on a positive note, but follow up in a timely manner with a thoughtful thank you email after your interview.

Let the interviewer know you appreciated them taking time to talk to you and that you enjoyed it and that you are invested in the process.

It will help you stand out and reinforce that you’re truly interested in the position. Above all remember that the focus here is on how you add value to the company, not just what your past experiences are and what you’re good at.

 

9. (BONUS) Direct Them To Your Personal Branding Website

Say whaaat?  Personal branding website?

Oh what, you didn’t know the strategy that all the best job seekers are employing in 2017?

It’s true, having your own personal branding website can be one of the most powerful tools you use as part of your job search.

Why?  Well there are dozens of reasons, but most importantly, a personal website will allow you to impress hiring managers, differentiate yourself from your competitors, increase your visibility online (and own the Google search of your name) and create a hub for your personal brand online.

Not to mention it lets you show off so much more of your personality than your resume or cover letter can.  And this is absolutely HUGE for someone having a phone interview, when the name of the game is standing out and being memorable.

What do you think is more memorable?  Someone who submits their resume and cover letter and then answers a few questions over the phone… or someone who does all of the above and then directs the hiring manager over to their website, allowing them to receive the many benefits I listed above?

It’s a no brainer… and here’s a little secret.

It’s not that hard.

Especially since I made a blog post for you that shows you exactly how to do it, How To Set Up Your Personal Website In Under 15 Minutes.  This blog post will hold your hand through the process and make it brain-dead easy for you, even if you are terrible at using computers.

Introducing Your Website In Your Phone Interview

Once you’ve been able to set up your site, this is how you bring it up in a phone interview…

Traditionally, near the end of the interview the hiring manager will say something like, “Is there anything else that you want me to know that we haven’t covered in this interview?”

Now is your chance!

“I’d love you to check out my personal website JeffGillis.com.  It will give you a great idea of the work I have accomplished, the experiences I’ve had and most importantly, the type of person you’ll be getting if you decide to hire me for this position.”

In doing this you will not only give the hiring manager a much more engaging and interesting experience, but you’ll also show what an intelligent, dedicated and forward-thinking individual you are.

Sounds like someone I would want to hire!

So there you have it!  If you follow the tips above (especially bonus tip #9!), you can almost guarantee to have the interviewer eating out of your hand… even if they aren’t in the same room as you.

Once that’s all done and you’ve hit send on that thank you note, reward yourself for an interview well done!

And yes, now that you’ve knocked that phone interview out of the ballpark and you’re confident in your tailored answers and thoughtful questions…go ahead and put those Scooby Doo flannels back on!

FREE: "Phone Interview Questions & Answers" PDF CHEAT SHEET

Get our handy "Phone Interview Questions & Answers" cheat sheet.

In it you'll get word-for-word sample answers that you can use in your next phone interview.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE CHEAT SHEET

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48 Comments

  • Sharon

    Reply Reply June 5, 2015

    Wow?this is denfiently a reinforcement…. You have to always bring your ‘A’ game especially on the phone.. I am learning now after so many phone interview that I am a actor and I am audiencing for a famous role? and remembering it not about me but about the company and what do I bring to the table.

  • sandy rana

    Reply Reply June 5, 2015

    wow that’s great

  • GTA painters

    Reply Reply June 7, 2015

    This is a good tip especially to those new to the
    blogosphere. Short but very precise info… Thanks for sharing
    this one. A must read article!

  • Karen

    Reply Reply January 28, 2016

    Well written and helpful article! Keeping it brief and having written notes totally helps!

  • kimberly

    Reply Reply February 1, 2016

    awesome information it made me relax . Thank you!

  • DeAndrea Smith

    Reply Reply February 2, 2016

    I’ve read all of your articles and watched your videos on your YouTube channel. You guus have really helped me land some AMAZING jobs. You are definitely my “go to” guys whenever I am preparing for an interview. Thank you Jeff and Mike!

  • Anonymous

    Reply Reply April 15, 2016

    That’s great ..thank you so much for sharing this ??

  • Lemon

    Reply Reply May 11, 2016

    Great article, I am going to use your tips for new career prep.

  • Arpita

    Reply Reply May 20, 2016

    Wow..this article is really awesome… N helpful

  • Maria H.

    Reply Reply May 27, 2016

    Thank you, this is just what I need to prep.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply May 27, 2016

      Great Maria!

  • Una O'Doherty

    Reply Reply June 24, 2016

    Fantastic article. I learnt a lot from reading your editorial.

    Many thanks

    Una

  • Fathur

    Reply Reply July 14, 2016

    You rock, Jeff. This is really helpful, you nail it with the most casual way IMHO.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 18, 2016

      Thanks Fathur!

  • chevvy

    Reply Reply July 15, 2016

    well, i got attention of the company i wanted , and the phone call interview but it didn’t go well as i planned as i answered vaguely when they asked “why do you want to work for this company?”, after the phone call was done few minutes later i was so shocked and got this feeling that i blew the chance i got. but i learned something from this.

    what is more important is research if given the chance for the phone interview before doing it , learning about the company. i failed because of the confidence i had ,excitement which made me end up forgetting what was next.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 18, 2016

      You nailed it Chevvy…

      The key is to have your company info on lockdown so that you never hesitate. You’ll ace your next phone interview…

  • Phaniraj

    Reply Reply July 25, 2016

    Wow… My confidence just got boosted up for my next interview.
    Thanks a lot.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 26, 2016

      Great to hear!

  • Aniq

    Reply Reply July 26, 2016

    I’m going to be interviewed by phone on this Thursday, but it is only for internship program, but I’m going to use this tip in order to prepare myself. Thanks 🙂

  • Daisha

    Reply Reply August 1, 2016

    I am an Admissions Coordinator and the Director of Admissions position has opened up and I applied/ I got a call today scheduling my phone interview for this Wednesday. With me already being a part of the company and having done my research, is there anything else I should be prepared for. I’ve never been in a management position, so it is a little intimidating.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply August 2, 2016

      I think you answered your own question Daisha. You need to get to the “insides and outs” of what it means to be a manager. What skills can you bring to the table that are specific to being Director of Admissions? They are probably going to ask you some questions that will try and discover whether you have the necessary skills and abilities…

  • stephy

    Reply Reply August 3, 2016

    Hi there, this is truly a great article.
    I will have a phone interview with a big company tomorrow morning. I’m researching the possible questions that would be asked.
    For the question “Is there anything else that you want me to know that we haven’t covered in this interview?”, I don’t have my very own website, what else can I have as my answer?

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply August 3, 2016

      Hi Stephy,
      This is an opportunity for you to reinforce why you are a great fit for the position and company. Use the research you’ve done about the company to bring up one of your qulaities that you know they put a lot of value in…

  • Lokesh M

    Reply Reply August 24, 2016

    Hi,
    This is one of the best article which helped me to get confidence
    I’m staying in India and applied for a Job in an Insurance company of USA. Today I got a reply requesting my contact details for Phone Interview. Tomorrow is my first phone interview. Do you any special suggestions for me as I am from out of US

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply August 25, 2016

      Hi Lokesh,

      I can’t be absolutely sure that the exact same practices are going to apply in India, but the basic principles remain the same. Remember to do a bit of company research beforehand!

  • Ester

    Reply Reply September 7, 2016

    I had a phone interview and I didn’t know it was going to be that way, they called me out of the blue and even though I’ve been practicing my answers for the different questions they normally ask I was very nervous to the point it was very noticeable. I know I have a lot of potential and I’m bilingual. I was feeling very confident till the moment the person called me and started interviewing me, however, this is an experience that helps me get more prepared and this article is absolutely helpful!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply September 8, 2016

      Thank you Ester! I promise phone interviews get a lot easier with practice…

  • Mark J. Asselin

    Reply Reply October 6, 2016

    Thank you guys for such a great combination of support and advise. I applied for a position with a large organization for a role which is a change of career for me. When I was contacted for a phone interview, I downloaded all of your tips for preparation and questions. My phone interview was Tuesday morning, and I felt it went well. The recruiter told me that he would be submitting the telephone interview results from the candidates to the hiring manager this week, who would be contacting those recruits next week, which he/she felt qualified for a face to face interview. The following morning, Wednesday, I received a call from the hiring manager for an interview this friday, 3 days after my telephone interview. Although my qualifications, goals and skill set are a perfect match for this position, I credit the information I gained from the Interview Guys for my successful telephone interview. I am now prepping for my face to face with the help of your many tips and suggestions.

    Thank you.

    Mark J. Asselin, FMP

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply October 6, 2016

      Great to hear Mark! Definitely sound like you prepared like a champ and took our advice to heart. Well done. Good luck to you on the next stage!

  • Tom Fisher

    Reply Reply November 1, 2016

    Thanks for the tips.I scheduled my phone screen for 7 days from now.Because of your article I have confidence that in 7 days I’ll be informing you that I’m onto the next step in the hiring process.THANKS AGAIN

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply November 3, 2016

      Thanks for stopping by Tom! Let us know the good news when you get it!

  • Tisa

    Reply Reply December 7, 2016

    Thanks so much for these tips, Jeff. I have my very first phone interview this Friday and I don’t feel as nervous as I normally would. It’ll be an international call from an NGO that is opening its offices in my country, Zambia. Hope all goes well.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply December 7, 2016

      Good luck Tisa!

  • TC

    Reply Reply January 23, 2017

    Jeff! Thank you very much! I landed a second interview! Your website really helped. The best tip was where you should dress as if it were an in person interview.

    Thank you so much, I will not look through the rest of your website to prepare for my second interview.

    Thank you!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply February 3, 2017

      Great news TC!

  • Ankitha attal

    Reply Reply January 27, 2017

    Thank you sooo much for then wonderful and useful article Jeff..I have my very first phone interview today (Friday) and I was too tensed about it. But, now after reading your article i am quite happy and confident in attending the call. thank you soo much 🙂

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply February 8, 2017

      Thanks Ankitha! I hope your phone interview went well! 🙂

  • Sandi

    Reply Reply May 16, 2017

    These are great tips. It isn’t clear if a follow up call after a preliminary phone interview with HR is suggested. Of course I sent a thank you note, but the recruiter I spoke with indicated that the next step would be an interview with the hiring manager, and I haven’t heard from him/her yet. Would a follow up call to the HR representative be okay?

    Sandi

    • Mike Simpson

      Reply Reply May 18, 2017

      Sandi,

      I find that, especially with recruiters, it is best to follow instructions. You don’t want to get in between the recruiter and the company… that is their job, and it might come off as annoying. I would give it another week and touch base with the recruiter again.

      Hope this helps.

      – Mike

  • Ariadna

    Reply Reply June 6, 2017

    Hi guys! I got a voicemail from a job I applied a couple of days ago and I let it go to voicemail. I came here to read up on some tips and called them back with the intention of scheduling a proper phone interview. However, before I was given the chance to say if we could schedule the phone interview, the HR person began asking questions and I couldn’t not respond them so I guess I had a phone interview. Good thing I came here first and researched them company! In reading your article it says that we should send a thank you note via email, but I don’t have their email and their email is not on their website. Would it still be ok to call them and say thank you over the phone? How long should I wait? Thanks for your help!!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply June 6, 2017

      Hi Ariadna,

      Wow sounds like you got put in a tricky situation! I wouldn’t call them back to say thank you. Simply wait until your in person interview then you can send a thank you email after that. Good luck!

  • Eva

    Reply Reply July 27, 2017

    These are such great tips. Thank you!

  • Momin

    Reply Reply September 6, 2017

    Hello Jeff, thank you for this great phone interview tips!

    I have a question dear,

    How/when the phone interviewers are normally going to schedule the second interview?

    I’ve had a phone interview and performed well, even the interviewer told me that I’m good for the position, and said that they would like to schedule a further interview in person with me, a representative is going to contact me to schedule the interview. Call ends..

    I wonder why the don’t schedule the interview in the phone interview? i felt like, its a way of rejection hahaha

    Thanks

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply September 19, 2017

      Hi Momin,

      Don’t take that as rejection, they probably just have to coordinate interview times with other applicants and the company 🙂

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