Phone Interview Mistakes: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Phone Interviews

By Natalie Briggs - Apr. 16, 2021

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Congratulations! You’ve just heard back from an employer who was impressed with your application, and it feels like all the hard work you have put into the job search is finally starting to pay off. You set up a time with them to conduct an over-the-phone interview.

For many companies, this, as well as virtual interviews, serves as the first step in the hiring process, and they will use this interview to narrow down the pool of candidates that they are considering.

This first round of interviews will often lead to an in-person interview down the line, so you need to ace this phone call.

Because of this, it is important to give a good first impression, as acing this step in the interview process could move you forward in the process.

As more and more companies are starting to realize the benefits of technology, phone interviews are becoming more and more common. Rather than asking someone to commute to the office, a phone interview is a great way to meet someone and get a sense of who they are, without requiring a meeting in person.

We’ve compiled a list of tips for your phone interview, so you can be as successful as possible.

Phone Interview Mistakes

Let’s start with the things you should avoid doing during a phone interview. These are things that can make you seem rude, inconsiderate, distracted, or even uninterested.

  • Don’t take the call on speakerphone. You want to be heard in an interview, so it’s best to avoid using speakerphone. This can make you appear distracted, and it makes the interview wonder what you are so busy doing that you cannot hold the phone up to your ear.

    Plus, speakerphones tend to become echo-y, muddled messes of sound, which only serve to make it harder to understand you. The same can be said for headphones, especially Bluetooth. Always speak into your phone’s built-in microphone to avoid technological issues.

  • Don’t take the phone call in a public place. Public places are unpredictable and often hectic. They are filled with noises of people coming and going, and these are only going to distract from what you are saying. For this step in the interview process, avoiding Starbucks or the public park is best.

    Opt instead for a quiet place in your home, where there are likely to be fewer interruptions. If you have roommates or family members living with you, let them know you are expecting an important phone call and ask them to keep the noise to a minimum.

    Take advantage of the fact that you will be on the phone. This means that you can wear comfortable clothes, and you get to remain in your home. You will be avoiding the discomforts that come with going to a new place and meeting strangers, and instead, you will have the home-field advantage of being in a relaxed, secure environment.

  • Don’t multitask. No matter how good at multitasking you may be, people can pick up on when you sound distracted. There is nothing worse than having your answers filled with “um’s” and “uh’s” because you are trying to balance completing the interview and doing something else.

    Having another task on your plate is too risky, as it can make you come across as unprepared, disinterested, or even inconsiderate. Give this interview the respect it deserves and give it your full attention.

    If you are the type of person who needs something to do with their hands to think clearly, try taking notes, as this can keep your hands busy and also allows you to record important information.

    You can also try playing with a pencil or pen — avoid clicking your pen, though, as this can be distracting if not annoying — or pace around the room as you talk. Giving your body the chance to move around typically sates the fidgeting urge.

  • Don’t wait to call in. Punctuality is just as important with a phone interview as it is with an in-person interview. The general rule to follow is to have the call connected and going within five minutes of the agreed-upon time.

    If you are unsure of who will be calling whom, take the initiative and assume you were meant to call them. Contacting them on schedule will show that you are eager about this opportunity and that you don’t want to waste other people’s time.

  • Don’t talk too much. For many of us, we talk when we are nervous, or when we feel there is an unnatural lull in the conversation. However, in interviews, this can lead to babbling and getting off-topic.

    When answering an interviewer’s questions, only talk enough to answer their question fully and completely. Make your point and then allow them to take the next step. If they need clarification or want you to speak more about a particular topic, they will ask for it. Remember that it is better to be concise than it is to be over-explanatory.

Tips for a Successful Phone Interview

Now, let’s move on to what you absolutely should do in a phone interview. These are boxes you need to check off if you want your phone interview to be a success.

  • Set yourself up for success. Do your research on the company. Gather a few talking points that you can use in conversation to prove to the interviewer that you are interested in the position and their company. This goes a long way to set you apart from the competition.

    Be prepared for common interview questions and have a few answers lined up. Anything you can do to help you seem more prepared will be extremely helpful in this or any interview.

  • Make sure your connection is working properly. Having the call drop can cause a snag in the interview that could cost you the job. It disrupts conversation and sends everyone scrambling to get the interview up and running again.

    To avoid this, designate where you will be taking the call, and do a few test calls to friends or family members. Make sure you can hear them clearly and vise versa. This will ensure that technology will cooperate during your interview and it will go off without a hitch.

  • Speak up if you can’t hear. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, technology can fail us. There may be a time during the interview where hearing the interviewer becomes difficult. If this does happen, speak up. Let them know that you are having difficulty understanding them, and ask them to repeat what they just said.

    No matter whose technology is to blame for the bad connection, it is better to admit there is an issue rather than trying to answer a question you only heard half of.

  • Take notes. For many of us, stressful situations like an interview can pass by in a blur, and in the end, we realize we may not have absorbed as many details as we thought we did. Taking notes is a great way to combat this. Write down important figures and dates, such as the hours per week you’d be expected to work or the anticipated start date.

  • Get the interviewer’s email address. Before the call is over, ask the interviewer for their email address. This can come in handy if any questions arise, but it also allows you to reach out to them with a quick thank-you note after the interview.

    This shows your appreciation for their time and shows that you are a considerate individual grateful for the opportunity they are giving to you.

  • Realize there will likely be next steps. As we said before, this is often the first step in the interview process. Many companies use a phone interview to screen candidates and decide who will move on to the next round, which can be in-person or virtual.

    After the phone interview, it is not uncommon for the interviewer to ask for more from you.

    For example, if you are a writer or another creative type, they may ask you to send a few examples of your past work or send in a portfolio. Write down everything they ask for so you are sure you don’t miss anything and send the materials to them promptly.

  • End the interview well. How you end an interview can be just as important as the interview itself. You should always close the interview by thanking the interviewer for their time and telling them it was nice to meet them.

Final Thoughts

Even though they are over the phone, phone interviews can be just as stressful and just as important as in-person interviews. Being prepared is a great way to alleviate some of this stress. Research the company, on the position itself, and on what skills they are looking for. Read about mistakes you can make in an interview or how you can avoid leaving a bad impression.

By perfecting your over-the-phone interview skills, you put yourself well on your way toward an on-site interview and getting the job.

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Natalie Briggs

Natalie is a writer for Zippia with a passion for research and storytelling. She is a graduate of Lake Forest College and holds a degree in both English and French.

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