Five Ways to Flunk a Phone Interview


More and more hiring managers are turning to phone interviews as an initial means to narrow down applicants. Not only does this method allow recruiters to take a large candidate pool and filter it down to the top contenders, but it also cuts costs by reducing time dedicated to conducting several in-person interviews.

This initial call is an opportunity for candidates to make a positive first impression, and it may be the only chance to convince a prospective employer that you are a good fit for the job. So how can you stand out from the competition? Start by avoiding these five phone interview pitfalls:

  1. Taking the call in a distracting environment: 
    Eliminate any and all potential background noises like screaming children and barking dogs, as well as Facebook notifications, e-mails, or text messages. Why? "Background noises can be extremely off-putting during a phone interview, so special care to eliminate these annoyances should always be taken," explains Jackie Ducci, president of New York boutique recruitment firm Ducci & Associates. Recruiters want to be sure they have your full attention, and you don't want to give the impression that you bring chaos in your wake. Treat your phone interview the same way you would an in-person interview; after all, you wouldn't bring your kids and pets to a potential employer's office would you?
  2. Being a passive participant:
    Actively engage the interviewer with your own set of thoughtful questions throughout the call. Not only will this avoid any awkward silences, but it will also showcase how well-versed you are with the company and, in turn, how serious you are about the role. Jason Swett, CEO of Snip Salon Software, an online appointment software firm for hair salons, says that candidates that spend the entire phone call passively answering questions come across as boring and ill prepared. "Come up with specific, thoughtful questions about the company and the people who are interviewing you. This will show that you have a genuine interest in that company specifically, and will increase the chances that your interviewers will think you're a good fit." Ducci adds that by engaging your interviewer with questions, "you create a back and forth dynamic, which will lead to a more natural connection and a better rapport."
  3. Forgetting to smile:
    The best way to avoid seeming disinterested or low-energy is to make sure you are smiling as you are speaking. As Senior Technical Recruiter of Technology Staffing and Consulting firm Eliassen Group, Anne Ledger has participated in her fair share of phone interviews. She recommends looking into a mirror for the duration of the call to better monitor your facial expressions. "You can practice speaking while looking at yourself and SMILE. It will put you at ease and make you relaxed and ready to nail the phone screen."
  4. Speaking without thinking:
    Dialogue is the most important element of any phone conversation, so choose your words wisely. "Your voice and choice of words are really the only aspect of who you are that the employer can use to gauge whether or not they like you," notes Ducci. "Be articulate of course, but also cognizant of expressing some personality and enthusiasm while you are speaking. The high-energy, friendly candidates are far more likely to excel in a phone interview."
  5. Neglecting to follow-up:
    Be proactive and send a follow up e-mail immediately after the call. It should not only review what was discussed, but also thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the position. Joshua Weiss, CEO of mobile application development company TeliApp, says that the follow up is your last chance to get as much pertinent information across as possible. "For all you know, the interviewer may have dozens of candidates, and you're relying on his / her notes taken during the call," explains Weiss. "Make sure you get across everything you got across that's important over the call, and that you include items that didn't come up that you wanted to discuss."

Avoid these pitfalls, and you're one step closer to landing that next job.

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