5 Phone Interview Mistakes You’re Making & How to Avoid Them

Phone Interview MistakesThe phone interview is an important step in the hiring process—and not something to be blown off or overlooked just because it’s less formal than an in-person interview. This is often your first interaction with an employer, so make it a great first impression by avoiding the following mistakes that job seekers commonly make:

Mistake #1: Appearing distracted.

Avoid eating, drinking, playing on the Internet, or watching television while on the phone with a hiring manager. Any type of multitasking can make you sound uninterested and distracted – not to mention that it makes it more difficult to give great answers! Turn off all distractions and sit in a quiet room (away from family, roommates, and pets) during your phone interview to avoid distractions and background noise.

Mistake #2: Using a cell phone instead of a landline.

Although most individuals today use their cell phone much more than any landline, they’re not ideal for a phone interview with a potential employer. Cell phones tend to cut out or lose signal at a moment’s notice – which could affect your phone interview negatively. Even if you’ve listed a cell phone number on your resume, provide a landline for the hiring manager when it comes time for an interview.

Mistake #3: Poor communication skills.

Much like an in-person interview, you need to have prepared, specific answers to the questions an employer might ask you. Keep answers concise but informative. Pause at the conclusion of your answer to give the interviewer a chance to interject with any questions they might have. Remember that because the interviewer cannot see your facial expressions, you’ll also need to convey enthusiasm and passion in your voice and answers over the phone.

Mistake #4: Not doing your research.

Arrive on the phone as prepared as possible. Know who will be interviewing you (a hiring manager or HR person?) and what they might ask. Look over the job description again to determine what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate and see how your skills and accomplishments match up with it. Read up on the company, including recent news, press releases, social networking updates, etc. Take notes if you’d like—the great thing about a phone interview is that you can have them in front of you while speaking with the employer!

Mistake #5: Failing to have your resume, cover letter, and other documents handy.

Not only should you consider having notes about the position and organization in front of you, but you should also have your resume, cover letter and other important documents handy. Some hiring managers might ask you about specific accomplishments on your resume or want you to walk through your past experiences, so it helps to have the exact documents you sent them open or printed.

What other phone interview mistakes should job seekers avoid? How can job candidates impress employers during a phone interview?

Guest Expert:

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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  1. Great tips throughout this article! I think conveying your enthusiasm and passion for the job can be the hardest part of the phone interview, especially because you’re nervous. One way to infuse energy into your side of the conversation is to stand while on the phone. Moving around gets your blood flowing. Also, it sounds cliche, but smile when you talk — it really does make a big difference!

    Robert McCauley
    Robert Half International

  2. Jaime J. Bastidas says:

    Not a great article. Basically, these points are similar what has to be applied on a face-to-face interview and the following point just, with all due respect, seemed to be forced into the article:

    1) Appearing distracted: You have to always play attention to the interviewer, even in person, avoid texting for example. Lack of attention is easier to spot everywhere.
    2) Using a cell phone instead of a landline: Avoiding using the cell phone is irrelevant. In this day and age, mobile phones are as good or better than wireless landline’ phones. Plus, not everyone has a landline, especially international students.
    3) Poor communication skills: if you cannot express your ideas over the telephone, simply put, you might not be good for a job where communicating is necessary, especially as virtual teams are catching up, but obviously it applies to the face-to-face interview and every other situation in the company.
    4) Not doing your research: whether is in person or over the telephone, if you are not prepared, you will not go to a second round and you might be humiliated… This is obvious!
    5) Failing to have your resume, cover letter, and other documents handy: this might be the only visible advantage as the interviewer is unable to actually see you, however, if you do not know your CV, your motivations and the post you applied to by heart, you will not stand a chance should you be called to visit the company and meet the hiring manager in person.

    As someone who has had interviews in three different languages, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is this: ENUNCIATE!

    • Amber Loranger says:

      I agree with your take on #2 – most people I know, including myself, don’t even have land lines.

  3. Colin says:

    This is a good list, but is only the first level. I feel that the phone interview is vital and should be treated as seriously as an on-site interview. It seems to me that all the same preparation criteria applies, with the exception of the loss of visual cues mentioned in #3. The importance of visual cues can’t be underestimated. This begs the question: has anyone ever had an interview over Skype before? That would seem to me to be the next logical step in our tech-savvy world.

    Item #1 on the list above is so obvious that I’m surprised it was included on the list. I’m sure that there are people who haven’t figured this out yet, though I haven’t met any of them. If someone calls you for an interview while you are driving, either pull over ASAP to talk or arrange a more convenient time. The interviewer on the other end of the phone may not be impressed with sounds of squeeling tires and outbursts of profanity.

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