A reference is very important. In a sense, the hire depends on how well the candidates reference speaks of them. It’s pretty simple. You interview, they call the reference you provide and if it is good, you get hired. Of course, there are other factors. The job consist of conducting surveys through the phone, so speaking clearly is a big plus, as well as being bilingual. Again, the interview is simple, you read a script and the interviewer listens and they decided whether the job is a good fit. There is not much more to it. Highlighting previous phone experience, whether it was in an office or fast food restaurant, is great. Other than that just your general strengths.
The main qualities you should highlight in an interview with Abt Associates is communication skills, problem-solving, and any experience you may have with customer service. Due to it being an outbound call center, you'll occasionally ring up people that may be fairly irritated by the call. Dealing with upset interviewees is essential, and sometimes you might even convince these same people to answer your survey.
You should focus on research experiences when talking with Abt. They will want to talk about your thesis primarily. You could also toss in any research assistantships or other large research projects you’ve worked on, but the bulk of the interview will focus on your research experience and completed projects.