How to Mess up a Phone Interview & not get the Job


You’re in the market for a job, or just testing the waters. You’ve checked out LinkedIn or other, and you think you’ve found a job that’s a perfect fit. You send in your resume. An email comes back to you from a Recruiter requesting to set up a 15-20 minute phone interview. No problem right? You’re a perfect fit! How could anything go wrong? In short, things can turn into a hot mess after hello, and you don’t even realize it. Here’s how to increase your chances of getting that potential dream job.

1)      Don’t take over the conversation. You may have a ton of accomplishments and skills that match the job perfectly, and all you want to do is spell them out one by one. Temper yourself, and wait until the Recruiter asks you the question. You’re being judged by the person on the other end of that phone, and they’re likely perceiving you as someone that can’t take direction. Either that, or you may be coming across as someone that’s pushy, or perhaps even boastful. Let them lead, and eventually you’ll get an opportunity to talk about all the wonderful stuff you’ve done.

2)      Don’t go off on tangents. If a Recruiter asks you a question, give them enough information so they in turn can properly describe your background to the hiring manager. Just don’t go off into left field. If you’re talking about a project you did that’s relevant to the job, and you describe the environment, people involved, and net result then that’s great. However, there’s no need to talk about what you were wearing that day, that you had an upset stomach, or that your kids missed the bus that morning. That goes nowhere fast. If you go off on a tangent, regroup, and continue on.

3)      If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification. This isn’t exclusive to phone interviews but it’s especially important because you may not move forward as a result. Before you go on a crazy train with an answer that’s totally unrelated to the question, make sure you understand what’s being asked. It’s the Recruiter’s job to evaluate how you process information, how you deliver an answer, and the actual content. Repeating the question or asking for clarification shows the person on the receiving end that you seek to understand, and then to be understood.

4)      If you haven’t done one of the job requirements, don’t lie. The hiring manager has likely given the Recruiter screening questions, and your answers either will or won’t give you a golden ticket to the next stage.  Just because you don’t have a certain skill doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re an all-out pass. If you lie to the Recruiter and it’s believable, then you will likely get to talk with the hiring manager. However, the hiring manager will find out quickly that you’ve lied since they ask the question behind the question. Misrepresenting yourself will likely make the hiring manager exclude you from that job, and any future jobs even if you do pick up that skill.

5)      Don’t skirt talking about compensation. It’s a huge waste of time if you clam up when it comes to discussing money. The Recruiter has likely been given a range or at least some guideline to say if you’re in or out. The Recruiter needs to understand your current and future salary expectations so it’s clear what you will accept and what you won’t. Compensation ranges aren’t a total secret, but the Recruiter likely will not give you the full range. If they did, you would focus on the top and then be disappointed when you’re offered somewhere in the middle. Typically offers aren’t made at the top end of the range anyway because you need to come in and prove you can do the job. If you succeed in your role then likely it won’t be long before you’re moving on up. If you’re making well over the top then the conversation may end on both sides. If you’re making more and are open to less due to the job opportunity itself then level set with the Recruiter on why. You should also truly consider if it’s a lifestyle change you’re willing to make.

All in all, when you do a phone interview remember to be yourself, but button it up more than a casual conversation with a relative or friend. The Recruiter is aware that you’re a busy person, but so is the Recruiter. The Recruiter likely has multiple phone interviews lined up, and they’re trying to get qualifying and disqualifying information out of you in a short period of time. Be confident that it also makes the Recruiter happy when you accept a great offer. Their job is to best represent their company, and to pair up great individuals with great opportunities. It’s also their job and desire to best represent you. These few simple recommendations will make this a better experience, and may land you in your dream job.


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©2013, Jennifer Davis All Rights Reserved



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