Phone Interview Rule #1: Don’t Say Hello

The other week, it happened again. I had scheduled a phone interview with a candidate at an exact time and date. So my phone call was to be expected. And when I placed the call to the number given, I expected the greeting on the other end to be at a minimum professional. Ideally, it would also be an immediate recognition of the appointment.

Why? Because it sets the right tone for the rest of this very important conversation.

Instead, I received the unfortunate and awkward “Hello”.

After I paused to shake my head in disappointment, I had no choice but to ask the candidate (in this case, we’ll call her Mary), “Hi, is this Mary?”.

“Yes, it is” Mary replies.

Another pause to shake my head in frustration and wait for her to say something else. Was the candidate even expecting my call?

Now, I had to really move the conversation forward.

“Hi, this is Brent Peterson from Interview Angel Inc.”

“Oh, hi” Mary responds.

At this point, the critical first impression wasn’t a good one because I had to do the phone call confirmation, and it felt that I was inconveniencing the candidate.

I then spoke up again. “Uh, hi. I was calling for our phone interview. I am assuming this is a good time to talk.”

“Sure,” Mary concludes.


Let’s rewind the tape and walk through how the conversation should have been handled.

I place the call and the candidate picks up the phone:

“Hi, this is Mary Smith.”

“Hi Mary, this is Brent Peterson from Interview Angel Inc.”

“Hi, Mr. Peterson. I was expecting your call. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.”


Let me provide some additional clarity on these two simple recommendations (Professional Greeting and Appointment Recognition).

1. Professional Greeting

In an office environment, there is a standard protocol for answering the phone. Typically, the greeting is something as simple as “Hello, this is Brent Peterson.” Or it may be something more scripted such as “Thank you for calling the finance department. Brent Peterson speaking.”

The reality is you probably know who is calling on the other end because virtually all phones are equipped with caller ID. And yet, you would still respond with a professional greeting primarly because you know it is a communication exchange between professionals.

The other reason you would answer professionally because you know a co-worker may be placing a call from someone else’s extension. I’ll confess I’ve made the false assumption before based on caller ID, and once you have made the mistake, it is a hard lesson. Let’s just say, picking up the phone and saying “WAAAZZUUUUUUUUP?!?!?” in my best Budweiser imitation to a friend (based on caller ID) didn’t sound so good when it was his boss making the call.

So if you are a job candidate, answer the phone as if you are already in the office.

“Hi, this is Mary Smith.”

2. Appointment Confirmation

If you have a scheduled interview appointment with a recruiter or the hiring manager, be the first to acknowledge it on the phone. Appointment times can sometimes get mixed up. Don’t wait for the person calling you to confirm the purpose of the call. When I call candidates, I expect the person to be expecting my call, and to be prepared for the conversation.

You can simply state, in a friendly but professional tone, you were expecting the person’s call. Your next step is to immediately thank the person for taking the time to speak with you that day.

“Hi, Mr. Peterson. I was expecting your call. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.”

(Note: My general rule of thumb is to address someone formally (e.g. Mr. or Ms.) in any interview setting until given permission to call them by their first name. Chances are, the person will quickly respond with something like, “Oh you can me Brent”. Old fashioned chivalry can go a long way in a crowded job market.)

By following these two simple steps, you will start the conversation off on the right foot!

The good news for you is that most candidates fail to do so. Over the past 15 years for multiple organizations, I estimate that 75% of all candidates I have interviewed over the phone initiate that potentially life-changing career phone call just like a personal call from a friend.


And since I have you thinking about that commercial now, here are my favorites on YouTube:

1. The Original Wazzup Budweiser Commerical

2. The Wasabi Budweiser Commercial

3. The What are YOU Doing? Budweiser Commercial(and yes, I take extreme humor in the fact that the first guy is named Brent 🙂


Brent Peterson is the founder of Interview Angel (, a comprehensive guide and toolkit to executing near flawless job interviews. The goal of the Interview Angel Team is to bring out the very best in every job seeker. Discover product testimonials, upcoming events, and media interviews at

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