The art of the phone interview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida’s unemployment rate in October was 11.2% and in Miami-Dade County, where I live, it was 11.8 percent. Um. Yeah. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of people out clogging traffic in the middle of the day. That’s a lot of people competing for the same job. Every job listing gets dozens and dozens of inquiries the first day it goes public. Which means one discerning hiring professional must sift through the pile and conduct phone interviews to narrow down the process.

Before, a phone interview consisted of a brief hello with a couple of random questions. Its main purpose was to ascertain if you indeed had a pulse and if you were able to speak English and to make sure that you could formulate coherent sentences in said language. Today, the phone interview is something much more formal. And it could be the make or break of the entire interview process. You can’t “recover” from a bad phone interview. You either are exceptional or you will be hung up on and never thought about again.


Here are a few tips that will help you set the stage:

  1. Never schedule a phone interview in the early morning, late morning or early afternoon. You have to make sure that you are not tempted to conduct the interview from under the covers. HR professionals are immune to the powers of your sexy morning voice.
  2. Brush your teeth, as you would on an in person interview. I know they can’t smell your breath, but you’ll find that after brushing your teeth you will speak confidently and smile more, which will help you convey a friendly disposition. Just brush your teeth dammit. This will also help you to refrain from eating and drinking during the interview too.
  3. Disable your call waiting and text messages and email and push notifications from Twitter and Facebook. Put the dog on vibrate and the doorbell on silent and turn off Pandora and shut off the Playstation 3 and the fish tank motor. Lastly, let your neighbors know not to knock on your door to bring you afternoon espresso. You must have silence and absolutely no distractions.
  4. Remain seated at all times. Don’t pace around like a crazy person. You will fall. No doubt about it.

And here are a few tips that will help you make a lasting impression and get you to that next step:

  1. Do not pick up on the first ring. Wait until the second or third ring and then answer the phone calmly by saying, “Hello? This is Mari.” Obviously replace my name with your name. But this cuts that awkward “Can I speak to so-and-so,” “This is so-and-so,” “Oh, hello so-and-so this is but-or-but from xyz company,” ten seconds of nothingness that you can never get back.
  2. Take over the conversation. Seriously. This is awkward for the other person. They didn’t go to school for cold calling, they went to school for cold live-acting. Say you are interested in the job and list the reasons why you are qualified. Go into a long, interesting, story about a big project you had to do and relate it back to the job you’re interested in. You will answer 5 out of their 7 seven questions just by doing this.
  3. Compliment the company. Find a way to compliment the company’s website or the benefits package or the work they do. Yes, say at least one nice thing. But do not compliment the person’s voice on the other end. “My what a lovely voice you have,” is two-seconds away from creepy.
  4. Do not laugh. Well, a small polite tee-hee, if something charming was said, but no hardy-har-haring. No laughing so hard tears will stream down your face, no snorting, no bending at the stomach. None of it. No matter how low that salary range is.

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Published by Mari

I was born with a widow's peak and a thick accent. I majored in English as a second language. I work ( and travel ( and sometimes do both.

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