7 Phone Interview Mistakes That Can Cost You the Job

phone interviewIf you are new to job search, there are perhaps hundreds of situations you haven’t experienced before, like the phone interview. Yes, the phone interview – your very first in-person chance to WOW the recruiter.

Here’s a common scenario…

Out of the blue, your phone rings. It’s someone from a company that received your application and resume. Unfortunately, you didn’t catch the company name or maybe the job title.

Do you:

A) Fake it and pretend you know about the job.

B) Ask for more details about the job.

C) Stop the conversation and explain you missed the company name and job title while you search for the cover letter and resume you sent.

Think about this carefully. Because how you manage the call can determine whether you move on to the next interview or not.

The best answer is “C” of course. But how many times were you tempted to go with answer “A”? And if you settled on that answer, did you give up any advantage you might have had by being selected as a finalist in this round of the hiring process?

Don’t settle! After all, you only have one chance to make a great first impression!

And making a great first impression is the only way you can get to the next step of the job interview process!

Let’s see if you are making these phone interview mistakes…

1. What Job Is This Again?

Let’s start with finishing the example above…

It may not be possible to remember every job you’ve applied to. The reality is, if you’re actively job seeking, you’ve applied to a lot of positions. It is your responsibility, though, to be able to track and reference the jobs you’ve applied to by job title and company. In a recruiter’s mind, the job they have to fill is the only one you have applied to.

It’s possible that recruiter fails to mention the full job title and company name during the call. When that happens, don’t feel embarrassed to ask for more information or to clarify the job they are calling about. Simply ask them to repeat what company they are with and the job title.

If you need to stall while you look for the resume you submitted, cover letter and company research, just let the recruiter know you are looking for the information. By taking that approach, you are showing how organized and prepared you are.

2. Just Talk Loudly To Drown Out The Police Sirens

You don’t need to stay at home waiting for a call, but you do need to be aware that any call you answer could be from a potential employer.  Be polite and professional when you answer the phone during a job search! You want to make the right first impression.

More and more, people are letting calls go straight to voicemail and recruiters expect to leave a message. So make sure your voicemail greeting is set up to mention your name and/or phone number so they know they’ve reached the correct number.

If you do answer the phone and it is a recruiter, don’t be afraid to ask if you can reschedule an unexpected call if the conditions aren’t right.

If you intend to have a phone interview in a public spot or in your car, make sure you won’t be distracted and can access your files with the job posting and the resume you used to apply.

3. Surprise. This Is a Video Interview!

If you passed the phone screen and have another interview set up, make sure you know the format. Not knowing the interview format can cause you problems.

All you need to do is ask if the recruiter will conduct the next interview via phone or video?

While you’re thinking about the next interview, do you know how long your conversation is scheduled to last? There are no normal set of guidelines for interviews today. Each company has a unique approach, so it is up to you to ask questions in order to know what to expect.

Be sure to collect these details so you’re fully prepared and perform your best during the conversation.

4. I Grew Up on a Small Farm…

Don’t miss the point of your introduction. How you respond to “Tell me about yourself” can make or break the interview.

This question is technically the interviewer’s way of asking why you are qualified for the job and a match for the company.

Using your research, match your top two to four qualifications with the job requirements. Also, include why you are specifically interested in the role and company.

Keep your answer around a minute, so you don’t overwhelm the interviewer.

5. Nope. Not Going to Interview Here

Don’t jump to conclusions too early. Is the recruiter turning you off? Maybe they seem rude or unpleasant. They may be having a bad day.

Go ahead and have a great phone interview and once you are done, dig around and find people who work for the company so you can get insider information.

Even if you hear some of the warning signs, words, such as “micromanage” or “toxic,” take the interview seriously and ask questions, such as, “Tell me about one of your best employees and how you supported their development? or “can you tell me why this position is available?” These answers should help you better uncover the company culture.

6. Dang. There’s That Salary Question Again

Do you know what the going rate is for the work you do? Expect an employer to ask how much you made in your last job and how much you would like to make in the job you are applying for. In fact, in many parts of the US, it is ILLEGAL to ask about your previous salary.

These screening questions help the company assess if you fit within their budget and what your value is. Stating a number too high or too low could eliminate you prematurely.

To prevent this from happening, use salary calculators and industry contacts to gauge what the company may offer. You could even ask what the company budgeted for the role, rather than providing your answer.

However, if your past salary or expected salary is not close to what the company is offering, you are better off deferring your answer until later in the conversation once you have a better understanding of the job requirements.

7. They’ll Train Me, Right?

Don’t ignore the fact that you lack some of the job requirements. It is unlikely that you’ll have everything the company wants. And that’s ok.

You do need to have prepared an explanation for how you will come up to speed in the areas where you fall short. For example, if you don’t have specific software experience, you might at least know what it does. Talk with someone who uses the software. During that conversation, find out if the software is similar to anything you have used before. Also, ask how difficult it is to master and where you can get training. Now, when asked about your software skills, you will be able to address how you intend to come up to speed on the software you are missing.

The same logic applies to any skill or experience you are lacking. Speak with someone who is knowledgeable and construct an answer on how you would bridge the gap. If the interviewer doesn’t bring it up, you can provide your skill gap solution anyway. You don’t want to leave issues that may eliminate you unaddressed.

Phone Interview Bonus: Texting Is a Thing Now

More recruiters are reaching out to candidates through text messages. This is a good compromise for them and for you. After all, you can now respond when it is more convenient for you (and after you are 100 percent prepared). Also, you’ll respond confidently knowing that texting is the employer’s first choice in how to communicate.

Just make sure you use professional language and grammar. And, please: No text abbreviations or emojis!


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Hannah Morgan hiring prosAbout the Author: Hannah Morgan is a career sherpa, guiding new job seekers through the treacherous terrain of job search. If you are looking for no-nonsense advice, check out her site Career Sherpa. And follow Hannah on Twitter for the latest job search news and trends!



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