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6 Phone Interview Mistakes That Will Cost You the Job

Written by Peter Jones

Phone interviews can be downright tricky. Whether you’ve had one before and it didn’t go well, or you’re just a worrywart by nature, here are 6 of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

1. You’re obviously distracted

Your interviewer can tell if you’re typing or scrolling through Facebook while you chat. Your interviewer can also hear whatever noise is going on around you. Find a quiet place with a reliable phone connection and then focus on the interview. If you get a phone call out of the blue, it’s okay—preferable even—to tell the interviewer that you’re not in an ideal place to talk and to reschedule.

2. You’re not aware of who’s interviewing you

You have to know who you’re talking to and why. If you’re just having a quick chat with HR to verify your resume bullet points and contact information, it’s not the time to launch into your spiel for how you’ll singlehandedly save the company. And if you’re expecting that kind of call, but get your would-be boss or hiring manager instead, you need to be prepared. Make sure you know what to expect, to allow enough time and preparation.

3. You’re not prepared

This is no different from a real interview in this respect. You need to do your homework. That means preparing a stock list of responses to possible hard-hitting questions, and be ready to impress. The more you can learn about the who and why of your interview, the better you’ll be able to target your preparations. Do be ready to explain who you are, why you care about the company, and to list a few highlights and accomplishments from your resume that will show them you can make it rain.

4. You’re rambling

Good communications skills are crucial in a phone interview. The way you present yourself verbally here is your only tool toward making a good impression. That means keeping your answers clear, concise, and on the topic. That means no ‘um’s or ‘like’s or losing your train of thought in the middle of a run-on sentence. Make notes to yourself, even bulleted lists, and refer to them as often as you need (without reading from them by rote). Your interviewer will never know!

5. You’re coming across as lackluster

You might think it would be hard to communicate your energy and enthusiasm on the phone, rather than in person. And that’s partly true. You’ll want to make an extra effort to be effusive. Make sure to smile—studies show it actually makes a palpable difference in the way your voice sounds over the phone. Same with making gestures. Remember, be upbeat! You want this job!

6. You’re not showing how much you want it

You know how much you want this gig. And you’re the only one who can make your interviewer know it. A great way to do this, beyond your upbeat demeanor, is to have intelligent questions prepared that show your genuine interest in the company and how serious you are about getting this position. It’s not a faux pas to say explicitly how much you value the opportunity to interview and how interested you are in moving forward. Just make sure to follow-up with a sincere thank you note.

If you make sure to guard against the above mistakes, you’ll already be well placed to get the job, even over the phone.

About the author

Peter Jones