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Be professional in a phone interview to win the job

We live in a world today that brings a completely new meaning to multitasking. Potential employers call about our resume while we’re driving to the soccer field and deals are negotiated in the supermarket produce section. It’s easy to get too comfortable during a job search, but if you think that the person on the other end of the phone is not getting a message from your non-verbal communication simply because they cannot see you, you would be incorrect.


Do treat your search like it's your job

It’s easy to get comfortable during a job search. On the other hand, maybe the job search has gotten you down, and you are losing motivation. To kick start your job search, get up early, get showered and dressed, and attack your search feeling and looking professional, even if you are not planning to meet with anyone for the day. The reason is simple: They can hear you in your pajamas.

Do your homework

Research the company, department, and position. An interviewer will expect that you have looked up the company and understand their purpose. Questions based on your findings would be welcomed. Have a clear understanding of where you would fit in and how you would be an asset. Be prepared to sell the interviewer on this concept.

Do have a list ready

Have a list of companies and positions you've submitted your resume accessible at all times. If you’ve applied to 10 different jobs, it can be easy to forget what position was for what company. Have all of the information in one place so that when an interviewer calls, you know who you’re talking to, what position you’re discussing, and have your company research at the ready.

Do practice your phone voice

Your voice becomes the telephonic appearance, and how you sound on the phone is affected by your appearance and surrounding. For example, let’s say you sent your resume out to several places. You just got out of the shower, you’re in your bathrobe with wet hair, you ran down to the kitchen to grab a piece of toast and are swallowing your last bite as the phone rings with an unrecognizable number. You answer, “Hello” and they ask for you. Assuming it’s a telemarketer, you ask “Who is this?” OK, in reality, it was a hiring manager calling about the resume that you recently sent. What was the first impression that you gave?

Do follow up

Always follow up with a thank-you note. The old fashioned, handwritten letter is the best recommendation. In today’s electronic age, going that extra mile with a personal touch really makes a difference, and the handwritten letter is so unexpected today, that it can leave a more positive and lasting impression. Use the thank you/followup to clarify anything that you feel you may have forgotten that is important.


Do not let it go

Don't answer unknown calls or calls clearly from an interviewer - let them go to voicemail if you are not best prepared to answer professionally. On the same note, make sure your voice message is appropriate. Your phone message should be brief, courteous, and reflect your sense of professionalism.

Do not be afraid to reschedule

If you take a call unprepared, don’t get flustered - remain calm and tell the interviewer you will return their call at an appointed time. Thank them for contacting you, let them know you are interested in speaking with them and set up a time to talk before you hang up.

Do not make calls in your boxers

Take your search seriously. If you look like a professional (not making calls in your boxer shorts), place yourself in a professional setting (a home office, quiet room and not the car, the mall or the supermarket, the soccer field), take a deep breath and smile before making your calls, you will sound professional and project a positive image over the phone.

Do not be distracted

Call people when you are prepared to do so and can give the call the attention it warrants. Remember that you only have one shot to make a positive, lasting first impression and if that impression is going to be by phone, then you need to control the situation and set it up to your advantage.

Do not beat yourself up

Sometimes things happen and we botch the interview - learn from it and move on. Even though the interview may not have yielded the results that you would like, the only real harm you can do is leaving that interviewer with a negative impression. End on a positive note, whether you get the job or not.

Jumping cartoon

Keep in mind that no matter how much coaching we receive, advice that we get, and books that we read about interviewing, we cannot ever guarantee who will be on the other end of the phone. They may be a seasoned and experienced manager who is trained with interviewing techniques, or they may be someone who does not have a clue how to conduct a proper interview. Either way, they are the person you need to impress and it is best to be prepared for every scenario.

More expert advice about Finding a New Job

Photo Credits: Gutaussehender © Peter Atkins -; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Michelle A. RiklanACRW, CPRW, CEIC, CJSS

Michelle A. Riklan holds a B.A. in Theatre, English Literature and Speech Communications from Hofstra University. While beginning her corporate career, she pursued and completed a M.A. in Speech and Interpersonal Communications from New York Uni...

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