HR Blog

Phone Screens, and Voice Mail, and Laundry! Oh My!

By Dee Yingst

Treat your phone interview like an audition: because it is.

I’m not a fan of phone interviews. I know sometimes they’re necessary, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.  They are definitely important if the job includes communication mostly via telephone.  In these instances, I will first hold a phone screen so I can assess how you would sound to our customers – are you able to explain concepts in a clear manner, how’s your phone etiquette, do you interrupt the caller – things like that. Having done a fair number of these screenings lately, I thought I’d share some important lessons I wish everyone knew.

The call is scheduled, so there’s no excuse for not being ready. I have set this time aside for you. If I call and you’re out of breath and/or muffled because you just threw in a load of laundry and are trying to balance the phone on your ear, that’s going to tell me everything I need to know about how you will treat our customers. It’s not like I called you out of the blue – don’t treat me like an interruption or an afterthought.

Check your outgoing voicemail message – remember a potential new employer will hear it. Make sure it’s professional. If your voicemail does not identify you, fix it. When I call to leave a message I am always hesitant to do so when the voicemail does not identify the individual. You don’t have to give a full bio, just a first name will do. I’m sure your parents or friends think it’s adorable that your 2-year old recorded the message, or you sang your outgoing message, etc., but a hiring manager –

Don’t “ghost” hiring managers. If you’ve changed your mind, then call me and tell me that (even if you have to call after hours when you’re betting I’m not here to take your call). If you just don’t answer and don’t call back when I’m calling you for a scheduled conversation, you will go on my “no fly” list and any subsequent submissions will be discarded. Besides, it’s rude.

Don’t chew while you’re on the phone with me. I don’t care if it’s lunch or gum. Yuck.

Have a copy of your resume ready. When I ask questions about your experience and specifically something on your resume, you should know what I’m talking about.

Limit distractions. I shouldn’t have to draw you back into the conversation because you were looking at the TV, your social media feed, or watching the neighbor’s dog outside your window.  

Answer the phone. We all get a ton of robo-calls so I understand being hesitant to answer an unknown number. However, if you know when I’m calling, take the chance and answer the phone. If you have an emergency and can’t take the call, call me back as soon as you can and let me know. I will try to reschedule you since you had the courtesy to call back. If you don’t call, well then go back and re-read the consequences of “ghosting”.

Have the posting available for the call, if you can. If you don’t have a printer then at least pull it up on your phone and read it just before we talk. It’s a problem if you have to ask me which job we’re talking about because “you’ve applied to so many” and you’re not sure “which one this is”. (Sadly, those are actual comments from applicants). As I said at the beginning, I have set this time aside for you and I have every right to not have my time wasted by someone who couldn’t be bothered to be prepared.
Treat a phone interview with the same care you would treat an in-person interview. Remember:  when a hiring manager is calling, everything is part of the interview – from your outgoing voicemail message, to how you answer your phone, how well you’ve prepared for the call, and your overall telephone etiquette.