3 Sure-Fire Ways to Fail Your Phone Interview


When searching for a new position, a phone interview is often the first step in the screening process. For many applicants, it is a beacon of hope—a sign that the company is at least somewhat interested in your skills.

But, with so many desirable candidates on the market for a new job, most organizations use the phone interview as an efficient method of narrowing the talent pool.

Want to ensure that you’re not “weeded out”? Avoid these three fatal mistakes:It's not just a conversation. It's an audition.

1. Misunderstanding Your Audience

Before your phone interview, find out exactly who you will be speaking with—a recruiter? An HR assistant? The hiring manager? You’ll need to tailor your responses according to the interviewer’s role and level of expertise. Knowing your audience is key.

For example, if you are applying for a Digital Marketing Analytics position and your phone interview is with an HR Coordinator, you will need to avoid using too much jargon that may not resonate with the coordinator (and lead him or her to disengage from the conversation). Instead, focus on demonstrating your personality, work ethic, or leadership skills. On the other hand, if you are interviewing with the Director of Marketing Analytics, you should make an effort to showcase your expertise—in detail—right away.

2. Badmouthing Your Current Company and/or Boss

When the interviewer asks you why you are looking for a new opportunity, it is not an invitation to air your grievances about your current employer. Mary Ellen Slayter, Monster’s career advice expert and founder of Reputation Capital Media Services, concludes, “If you bad-mouth the previous employer to me, I’ll assume you’re going to bad-mouth me to your next employer.”

Instead of divulging all of the reasons your current job is making you miserable, respond with a more thoughtful statement that gives you an opening to speak about your potential employer. For example: “I’ve decided to take my career in a new direction, and I’ve heard great things about your organization.”

3. Taking the Call at Starbucks

If you are still working while you search for a new job, it can be difficult to get away from your desk for an interview. You may consider stepping out to the local coffee shop for a quick break, but taking the call from a busy public place can be distracting to both you and the interviewer.

“Starbucks might be a great place to check your email, but it’s way too noisy to be conducting a phone interview,” says Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resources Solutions.

If you have to leave work, but don’t have time to get home, plan ahead. Check with your local public library to see if they have private rooms available, take a walk outside (when the weather is nice) or find a hotel with an empty lobby nearby. If all else fails, take the call from your car – but not while driving.

“I’ve had candidates [interview while driving], and it comes across really badly,” says career and management coach Alison Green. “Because of safety, because it looks like they’re not treating the conversation as a priority, and because they’re denying themselves one of the greatest benefits of a phone interview: the ability to have notes in front of you!”

Remember—a phone interview is no less significant than an in-person interview. It is essentially an audition, an opportunity to paint a mental picture for the interviewer that compels him or her to learn more. In other words, you should prepare for the phone interview just as you would for a face-to-face meeting: study the company, review your resume, and be ready to articulate your contributions in previous roles.

IMG_8821_emailAs the Recruiting Coordinator at McKinley Marketing Partners, Ruth Bradley sources, identifies, and screens candidates. She’s responsible for coordinating candidate interviews and supports all other aspects of the recruiting process. Ruth takes pride in making personalized connections with every candidate she meets—either virtually or in person. She ensures that every candidate’s needs and goals are fully communicated so that McKinley can place them with a client who will benefit from their expertise. Ruth earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Fashion Merchandising, with a minor in Business Administration, from the University of Delaware.

Ruth lives in Arlington, Virginia, enjoys hiking, and is a frequent attendee of the Washington Nationals’ games. She’s equally passionate about Italian food!


by McKinley Marketing Partners