5 phone interview mistakes you must not make

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Nov 20

Phone interviews are the classic next step after successfully submitting your resume for a job. People blow the phone interview all the time — sometimes before they even have the telephone interview scheduled. Making any of these five mistakes for your phone interviews can doom the chances of moving on to the face-to-face job interview you need to get hired.

1. Taking too long to return the phone call from the recruiter

When you don’t promptly return a phone call from the recruiter to talk on the phone, it doesn’t bode well for you as job candidate. What’s promptly? Well, sooner is better than later. My recommendation is no later than the next business day to return the call. Waiting a week? You are history for that job.

2. Returning the phone call and not explaining who you are

People in recruiting and human resource departments talk to up to thirty people a day. Dropping you a voice mail about a position early in the morning and returning that call late in the afternoon means the recruiter has probably talked to twenty other people in the meantime. They will probably not remember who you are, which job they called you about and the rest of the context for the contact.

So tell them when they answer the phone or when you leave a voice mail.

“I’m Scot Herrick and I am returning your call from Monday morning about the Director position at Cube Rules.” If you are leaving a voice mail, add in the times you will be available for a return call and give your return phone number s l o w l y. Don’t you hate it when people leave you this nice conversational message and the literally zoom through the phone number to call back? Yeah, recruiters do too.

3. Relying on a cell phone for the interview

Nope. Needs to be a landline if at all possible. Sure, you need to be available for a call to arrange a phone interview, but the phone interview itself needs to be done via a landline. The probability of a cell phone not working right in your moment of phone interview bliss is just way too high to trust it for this vital step in your job interview process.

Make the arrangements using your cell phone and do the phone interview with a landline.

4. Reduce background noises to a minimum

I’ve talked with people on the phone for a phone interview when they are in a restaurant having lunch (on their cell phone, of course) and it is pretty amazing stuff you can hear — and none of it is about you and what you can do on the job. Trust me, it didn’t work out so well for them.

You need a quiet place to talk. Get to as quiet a place as you can for your phone interview so the recruiter isn’t distracted by background noise — and you aren’t either.

5. Multi-task your way out of a job during your phone interview

While the world thinks multi-tasking is okay, the truth of the matter is we cannot multi-task. The brain doesn’t allow it. When you are on the phone interview and you then multi-task by starting to read the e-mail that arrived (with its distinctive ding when it hits your inbox), you take your attention off of what the recruiter is asking you about you and your work. You will not hear the question right. You will sound distracted to the recruiter. You will sound like you cannot focus on something as important as the job interview.

You will miss out on that job. Don’t multi-task when on a phone interview. Take all the stuff out of your environment that would distract you from focusing attention on the phone interview itself.

Quality execution of the phone interview is critical to moving on

You can do many things well in phone interviews, but it takes little to destroy all of the good you do by making one of these phone interview mistakes. Focus on executing well — and get the job.

  • […] Phone interviews are usually the first interview done when someone decides, after looking at your resume, that you could qualify for the open job. That person decides you are "worthy" of an interview from what you have on your resume — your experience, job skills and results. Just as the resume won't land you the job, neither will the phone interview. Instead, the phone interview confirms what you say matches the resume. That confirmation then moves you on to a face-to-face interview. […]

  • Hmm…let’s see. How about the recruiter that ignored my information and e-mailed me to ask for my best phone number (which was clearly stated in my prior e-mail and on my resume). She asked me for “Some times in the next 36 hours when you’d be available” so I gave her three specific blocks of time.

    FOUR DAYS LATER, she e-mailed me to say “Sorry, I’ve been busy ….” I didn’t read the rest of the e-mail. I just deleted it.

    • Scot Herrick says:

      Yes, the mistakes go both ways, don’t they? And I agree with your decision. There is a point at which your time means something and if you keep giving it away, it will mean nothing.

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