How to Fail a Phone Interview

August 2nd, 2012 | Job Search, Resume | No Comments »

5 Tips for Phone Interviews

The phone screen is an increasingly popular tactic among employers for saving time and screening candidates before committing to a face-to-face interview. However, it’s all too easy to fail a phone interview entirely by accident. While you can’t treat a phone interview the same as an in-person interview, you also can’t treat it lightly.

Here are some tips for what not to do.

1. Too Much Background Noise
Without the privilege of a quiet conference room, you’ll need to pay attention to what sound waves will make it to the other end of the phone line. A crying baby, a morning TV talk show, or a beeping microwave will all make it hard for you to hear questions and the interviewer to hear your answers. Plus, it gives the impression that you aren’t 100% focused on the interview.

2. Multitasking
Your phone interviewer may not be able to see what you’re doing, but he’ll hear it in your voice if you’re distracted. Propping your phone between your head and shoulder while you check your email, clean the kitchen, and feed the dog is enough to make you lose your focus, miss an important question, and get generally confused. Find a quiet space where you won’t get distracted by other tasks.

3. Winging It
It’s easy to fall into the mindset of it being “just” a phone screen, rather than an “official” face-to-face interview. But treating a phone interview this casually and going into it without any preparation may be the cause of your demise. While a phone interview does technically give you an excuse to be in your pajamas, it’s a good idea be prepared and professional. Do your research and put on your best suit.

4. Filling the Silence
Because you don’t have the advantage of seeing what the other person is doing during moments of silence, it’s tempting to fill that silence with “umms,” “ahhs,” or general small talk. However, your interviewer may be jotting down notes or thinking about the next question, and they need that silent second without your filling it. Or, if the silence is on your end while you’re thinking about how to answer, don’t get nervous about the dead air; if necessary, say something like, “let me think about that for a second.” Stay calm, and get comfortable with the silence.

5. A Dying Cell Phone
Nothing could be worse than being in the middle of a winning answer when your phone blacks out because you forgot to charge it beforehand. Have the foresight to plug it in in advance, or at least have the charger nearby in case you hear that warning beep that your phone is on its deathbed.

Ultimately, your best bet is to treat a phone interview similarly to a face-to-face interview while simultaneously being aware of your surroundings and how you sound without the advantage of nonverbal cues.

by Clare Saumell