Job Interview Tips

The 7 Worst Mistakes You Can Make During a Phone Interview

Written by Peter Jones

You get a phone call out of the blue to interview you for a job. That means your interviewer will be totally forgiving if you’re unprepared, right? Wrong.

You do need to be prepared—always.  Steer clear of these 7 common pitfalls and set yourself up for success. Here are the 7 worst mistakes you can make during a phone interview.

1. Not being able to remember which job this is

The interviewer will say she’s so-and-so from such-and-such company. That has to trigger for you exactly which position you applied to. The only way you’re allowed to ask is if you’ve applied for two positions in the same company. Otherwise, make sure you’re sharp and prepared to recall exactly which positions go with which companies.

As far as she is concerned, her open position is the only one in the world. Don’t give her evidence that her job isn’t special for you.

2. Talking in public/while driving /in the subway

If you get surprised by a call while in public, politely state that you’re in a less-than-ideal setting for a conversation and ask if you can reschedule or postpone until you can get to a quiet, private spot. If you have scheduled your phone interview and it does not come as a surprise, make sure you’re going to be available to answer in ideal conditions.

3. Not knowing the format

If you’re scheduling a remote interview, make sure you know whether it’s via phone or Skype or FaceTime. Not to mention who is contacting whom, and whether all the relevant contact information has been shared.

4. Botching the “Who are you?” question

Your interviewer starts with “Tell us a little about yourself.” Don’t blow it. And don’t just give a brief bio and a sense of your favorite taste in movies. Target this answer to include compelling reasons why you understand the companies needs and fit them perfectly. Prepare this in advance, for each position you apply to. Just in case.

5. Not asking questions

If you’ve got ‘em, ask ‘em. Particularly if you’ve heard some scuttlebutt about the company. Now is your chance to find out. Take any insider gossip with a grain of salt, of course, but find a clever and nonspecific way of asking around it, particularly if you have concerns.

6. Not having an answer to the salary question

You may think you’re “not being pushy,” but really you look unprepared and not confident or experienced enough to know better. Have a range in mind, for any and all positions, and be prepared to state it clearly. Don’t aim too high or too low for the company or position—do some research ahead of time. Weigh what you used to make, what they’re offering, and what you think you can get before coming up with a number. And it’s always okay to ask them what their budgeted range is before stating your requirements.

7. Not identifying the elephant in the room

If you’re in the least bit under-qualified for a position, or lack a specific certification, you must not simply lean back and rely on charm. They know what your applications lacks and so do you. It’s best to be honest and up front about this and provide practical solutions for your inexperience. They’ll see that you’re mature enough to realize your weaknesses, but professional enough to have a plan to surpass expectations.

About the author

Peter Jones