What Not To Do During A Phone Interview

Robin Schwartz

What Not To Do During A Phone Interview

You have made it past the first hurdle! Well, your resume did. Of all the resumes sent in for consideration, you were selected to move on to the next phase of the interview process – the phone interview.

There are a number of reasons a company might reach out to schedule an initial phone interview with candidates. It’s possible there’s a large applicant pool requiring a reduction of candidates for the hiring team. Or, an applicant may live quite a distance away from the employer. In this case, the employer may just want to be certain of her candidacy before asking her to make arrangements to travel.

Based on your resume and application materials, they can see how you are/may be qualified for the position. The phone interview will further determine if you’re a fit for the company and how well (or not well) it goes, often determines whether you get the opportunity to meet the hiring team in person.

Set yourself up for phone interview success by practicing what not to do.

Don’t Take the Call In a Public Place

It’s unlikely a phone interview will be a surprise. While a recruiter or HR practitioner may reach out to you to schedule an interview, it’s unlikely they expect you to take the interview on the spot. At least 15 minutes before your phone interview is set to begin, make sure you’re in a quiet location that won’t be disturbed. If you’re at home with others, make them aware of the interview so there’s no chance of being interrupted.

There’s nothing worse to an interviewer that having a hard time hearing a candidate because of background noise. Public places increase the likelihood that it will not only be hard to hear each other, but also hard to focus. If you have no choice but to be in a semi-public place, try your best to find the quietest area. And, by no means, use speakerphone or a hands-free device. You’re increasing the risk of the call clarity being less than ideal.

Don’t Be “Late”

You may have agreed to call the interviewer at a specific time or she may have arranged to call you. Either way it was agreed, don’t be late! If you’re unavailable at the arranged interview time, that speaks volumes to the interviewer.

If something emergent happens and you know you can’t make the phone interview time, call or email the interviewer immediately. Hopefully they’ll be understanding with your need to reschedule, but they’re not likely to be very understanding if you don’t show any respect for their time.

Don’t Be Vague

When the interviewer is asking you questions, don’t be vague with your answers. Give supporting examples of your work and your experiences. If you don’t understand the question being asked, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask them to clarify it. There’s nothing worse than providing irrelevant answers to questions. It causes the interviewer to wonder if you’re paying attention.

If your interviewer has had to ask you to elaborate on your answer or provide additional examples, you’re not feeding him enough information. Take this cue to provide full and detailed answers to all additional questions. Don’t make the interviewer ask you to elaborate every time. Assume they want details.

Don’t Be Rude

While this might seem obvious, it’s surprising how many interviewees treat phone interviews as less-than formal situations and, thus, engage in behaviors that may come across as unprofessional or even rude. Don’t start the call by saying you need a moment to shut the door/get to a quiet space/etc. That shows you’re unprepared and you’re not valuing your interviewers’ time.

Very often the person conducting the phone interview will be a company’s recruiter or HR professional. Don’t treat them as any less knowledgeable than the direct supervisor of the position might be. If they ask you if you have questions, ask anything you’ve come up with about the company, the position description, the duties, etc. Don’t assume that the HR professional isn’t capable of answering everything you want to know at this stage. Refraining from asking questions will look bad. Refraining from asking questions because you believe the interviewer can’t answer them is assumptive and rude. If you make the ultimate mistake of somehow verbalizing that opinion, you can count on being out of the running.

If the person interviewing you is not the direct supervisor or hiring manager, don’t ask for the contact information of those team members. You’re not at a point in the process where requesting that information is necessary or appropriate. It’s also a way of signaling to the person interviewing you that you don’t have as much respect for their opinion in the hiring process.

Don’t Be Unengaged

Phone interviews can be tricky for some because you don’t have the added bonus of eye contact and the ability to read body language. For that reason, it’s even more important to come across as engaged in your verbal delivery. Show enthusiasm for the opportunity when you’re asking questions. Don’t worry if these are the same questions you’d like to ask the hiring team at a later stage of the interview process. The important thing is getting to the later stage.

Don’t end the phone interview without asking what the next steps are. This again indicates to your interviewers that you’re interested in the opportunity and eager to hear to back from them. Invite them to reach back out to you at any time if you can provide additional information that will be helpful to the hiring team. Don’t just be engaged in the interview but in the process as well!

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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