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Six Ways to Bomb a Phone Interview

Congratulations: you applied for a position, your résumé and cover letter were well put together, and you have been asked to do a phone interview!  This phone interview is the crucial first test you will have to pass before you are taken seriously as an applicant, and, as such, requires a lot of preparation and forethought.  Unfortunately, we’ve noticed that many otherwise excellent candidates often do not take phone interviews very seriously, or don’t think they carry the same weight as an in-person interview.  In the hope of inspiring these job seekers, we asked our experts to put together a list of six common ways potential candidates can bomb a phone interview.  Next week, we’ll take a look at some ways to avoid these errors and ace a phone interview!

One: Answering the Phone at an Inappropriate Place

If you’re dealing with a recruiter or busy hiring manager, they may call you directly to try to find a good time to conduct a phone interview, rather than play e-mail tag.  When an unfamiliar number pops up on your phone and you think it may be connected to a position you applied for, think about your surroundings before answering!  A crowded bar or loud baseball game does not make for good background noise, and the recruiter will not appreciate it if you sound drunk or are constantly asking them to repeat themselves.  These black marks may ruin your chances of actually getting the phone interview set up.  If you aren’t in a good place to answer the phone, it’s okay to let it go to voicemail and call back when you’re in a better location – just don’t wait more than 24 hours!

Two: Answering the Phone Unprofessionally

When you pick up the phone to speak with a recruiter or hiring manager – whether it’s an unexpected call to arrange a convenient time for a phone interview or the interview you had already scheduled – you need to immediately make a good impression by answering the phone professionally.  You’d be surprised how many people forget and ask, “who?” or “huh?” when the recruiter introduces themselves.  Picking up the phone and saying something simple like, “You’ve reached John Smith, is this Lisa from Company X?” will demonstrate that you are prepared and ready to talk, and will set the conversation off on the right foot.

Three: Not Being Prepared

Phone interviews can seem less threatening than in-person interviews, since you can go through the process while lounging around in your pajamas, but that’s no excuse not to prepare!  A phone interview is really a pre-screen to make sure you’re worth the effort of an in-person interview, so it’s important to impress your interviewer as much as possible.  Being able to have your computer in front of you makes it easier to wing it when the interviewer asks the inevitable questions about what drew you to the company and what you think the company does, but you still need to spend some time researching the company and developing some talking points.

Four: Not Having Questions

Phone interviews are designed to separate the wheat from the chaff, and if you don’t have any questions to ask the interviewer – even basic questions – you will likely end up with the chaff.  Phone interviews are typically scheduled well in advance, giving you plenty of time to prepare.  Googling “questions to ask in a phone interview” (see our article here for some tips!) is a good place to start for just some basic questions that can get you going, and it’s likely you’ll come up with some additional questions when preparing for your interview.  Even if researching the company provides all the answers you are looking for, it can’t hurt to ask the interviewer!

Five: Being Overly Cocky

We’ve found that while many people are anxious about phone interviews, a surprising amount of people react in the opposite way, and are overly cocky about their odds of success.  An interview over the phone is still an interview – an opportunity for you to highlight your successes and demonstrate your knowledge of the company – and should be treated as such, rather than as a formality.  Being confident is important, but coming across as cocky or as a know-it-all will definitely hurt your chances of securing an in-person interview.  Try not to come across as overly confident or a smart aleck, and definitely don’t start an argument!

Six: Not Following Up

It should be common knowledge that, as a job applicant, you should follow up after every point of contact with a company – and yet, it still bears repeating.  You’d be surprised how many phone interviews our recruiters have conducted without receiving so much as a, “Thank you for your time; I hope to hear from you soon regarding the position.”  Reviewing, selecting, interviewing, and ranking candidates takes a significant amount of time, and taking five minutes to send a quick thank you note following a phone interview is a relatively small gesture that says a great deal about your personality and work ethic.  It shows that you are someone who appreciates the work that others do, and that you are a team player who is capable of supporting the rest of the office.

There you have it: six surefire ways to bomb a phone interview!  Don’t forget to check back in next week for our article on six ways to ace a phone interview, and feel free to reach out to our recruiting experts with any questions or concerns you may have!

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