Telephone Interviews Matter for One Reason... Getting the Face to Face Interview

Telephone Interviews Matter

7 Ways to Fail a Phone Interview


I am in the middle of interviewing candidates for a sales account manager. Like many companies (all sizes), it is very reasonable for the recruiter or human resource professional to call a potential candidate and do an initial phone interview. Seven out of ten phone interviews I had this week didn't go well, and this has inspired me to write this article.


The phone interview is the only direct path in the face to face interview.


I will be honest. All ten people I called on "paper" were undoubtedly qualified for the account manager position, or I wouldn't have called them. This is where so many things went wrong for the job seeker. Today, I want to share this with you so you can learn by others mistakes. Phone interviews are your first impression and are the critical element in getting invited to the face to face interview.

Here are the reasons seven out of ten job seekers FAILED the phone interview:

  1. Phone Etiquette. If you are in a job search, answer your cell phone even if you don't recognize the number. When you answer, speak with enthusiasm and clarity. Five calls went directly to voice mail and three people responded like I was a bill collector. Only two responded like they were expecting my call. When you are in a job search and don't recognize who is calling you use this, "Hello, this is Sarah, how may I help you?". Your conversation with the employer will get off to a great start. Employers want to hire enthusiastic people, and it is why when you answer the phone with apprehension instead of confidently, you already are behind the ball.
  1. Knowing what employers have your application. During a job search, you have to know what jobs and companies you sent your application to without fail. When an employer calls, and you can't recall the company or the position you applied to, you lose. Too many of the applicants said, "what company are you calling from?" or "what job was that?". Happens all the time, and for employers, they are sitting on the other side of the phone, shaking their heads in disbelief.
  1. Quiet Zone. On one of my calls, I had to battle dogs (yes, three dogs) barking. I love dogs, but the interruptions completely ruined the flow of the call. When you know you have a phone call scheduled, find a quiet spot with no distractions.
  1. Failing to give examples of your skills to demonstrate your qualifications. Phone interviews are done to see if you pass the "boulder" test. This means just making sure you have the skills, desire, and compensation range that would fit the employer's job. You have to be able to demonstrate this quickly. When I asked the candidates about their account management skills, three replied that they felt they did a great job. The real answer should have painted a picture of their greatness. "I feel I am an excellent account manager. For example, one of my accounts was in complete disarray and losing money when I took it over. One year later, it was one of the largest accounts in our agency." Here is some more information on how to answer this question.
  1. Speaking pattern. Since the interviewer can't see your nonverbal communication style, all they have to rely on is what you are saying and how you are saying it. Two of the people I interviewed talk so softly I had to keep asking them to repeat themselves (and I have good hearing). Another candidate sounded like they just got out of bed. Enthusiasm in your voice is imperative. To do this, stand while talking and force yourself to smile. You will project much better, and smiling will put your body into the right frame of mind.
  1. Salary question will be asked. Unless you live in a state that prohibits and employer from asking your salary, the phone interview is conducted to make sure you fit the salary range. Hopefully, you have an idea of what the job pays (I understand many job postings don't include salary). Most importantly, you know what compensation would make you happy. I don't particularly appreciate it when employers ask you directly what you currently make; however, this is normal. I would suggest answering that question with a salary range. "I am looking to make a move to a new position somewhere in the 55,000-65,000 range." If you know what the job pays and this is in the range, you are good to go. If you get pressed for an exact amount and don't want to give it, say, "I will share my salary expectations with you and see if that fits in your salary range." I hope the law that bans this question goes to all 50 states.
  1. Do you have any questions for me? Yes. Yes. Yes. My number one answer to this question is one of my favorites. Ask the interviewer, "Can you tell me about your top employees who have had this role and what characteristics they have that make them so successful?" The employer's response will give you some great insight into what they are looking for in this next hire. Homerun question!

Remember, the employer will call you out of the blue to phone screen you. If you are always prepared, take the call and do the interview. However, if you are driving, tired, working, or just not ready, schedule a time and get prepared.



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