Our Corporate Recruiter and I do a lot of phone interviewing.  Phone interviews are a great tool; they give both the interviewer and the candidate the opportunity to gather a little more information about each other in order to determine whether or not a face-to-face interview should be pursued. With so many resources available today that give job seekers great interviewing tips, it is surprising that we encounter the same mistakes over and over.  Here is our list of the top five phone interview mistakes that will move your resume to the “NO” pile:

  1. Not asking questions – No questions?  Not even one?  This is our biggest pet peeve when we interview someone.  It’s a given that phone interviews are short but you should always have at least one or two questions in a phone interview.  It shows the recruiter that you’re interested and have thought about the position and the company.  Phone interviews are typically scheduled in advance which gives you time to prepare.  Not having any questions gives the impression that you were too lazy to Google, “Questions to ask in a phone interview.”  Oh, and don’t ask about compensation (see number 5).
  2. You didn’t do any research on the company – This week, no kidding, we had a phone interview in which the candidate replied, “Nothing” when we asked what she knew about our company.  Similar to not asking questions, this just shows a lack of interest.  Most company websites clearly indicate the industry and the services it provides.  Nobody expects you to give a 10 minute presentation on their company but some general knowledge implies it is important for you to know about the company where you could potentially work.
  3. Being too casual – For us, we have typically encountered this when someone was referred by a current employee.  Just because your buddy works here, doesn’t mean that you’re a shoo-in.  If anything, you should be on your best behavior so as not to embarrass the person who stuck their neck out to refer you.  Do not make the mistake of thinking the recruiter is your friend by association and that the same standards that apply to everyone else do not apply to you.
  4. Answering a question, “I don’t know.” – Part of the interviewing process is selling yourself.  It’s better to ask for a minute to think about an answer than to simply say you don’t know.  You should know.  You are the expert on you and your experiences.  If there is a question that really doesn’t apply to your experience, try to come up with a similar situation you can talk about.  Another suggestion is to give an example of what you might do if you encountered the situation described in the question.  Just saying you don’t know indicates a lack of effort.
  5. Asking about salary and benefits – A phone interview is too soon to be asking about compensation.  A recruiter may ask you about your salary requirements and if they do, it’s certainly fine to answer.  A more appropriate time to discuss compensation is after an offer has been made during the negotiation phase.  Asking about compensation too soon makes it seem as though the work itself or the company are not as important as what you will be getting out of the relationship.

Views: 3325

Comment by Matt Charney on July 8, 2014 at 2:43pm

This is great advice, and particularly appreciate it coming from an actual practitioner - too few recruiters and too many "consultants" and content marketers turning job search advice into a commodity. Really appreciate your sharing your (spot on) insights and expertise - look forward to seeing more killer stuff from you on here in the future. And welcome to the Recruiting Blogs community!

Comment by Kelly Mead, SPHR on July 8, 2014 at 3:17pm

My pleasure!  Simple mistakes prevent people with a lot to offer from being chosen to continue the interviewing process. Hopefully my advice will help someone interview better. Thanks for the welcome!

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on July 9, 2014 at 12:16am

I think that a candidate is far better off saying "I don't know" than trying to bluff their way through an answer.  Asking for clarification on the question is probably the best idea, though.

Comment by Interview Vista on July 9, 2014 at 7:41am

Thanks for the information about the phone interview while I am in the favor of video interviews. If you have any ideas about video interviewing questions and improvement tips please share. Thanks.

Comment by Kelly Mead, SPHR on July 9, 2014 at 8:06am

I've actually gotten a lot of questions about video interviews lately since they are becoming more common.  I'm working on putting something together and hopefully will have it posted in the next week or so.  Thanks!

Comment by Peter Clayton on July 9, 2014 at 9:22am

We have certainly seen a plethora of video interviewing platforms (beyond Skype) over the past couple of years, with very favorable results from most companies using them. Do you think video will replace the traditional phone screen? 

Comment by Tiffany Branch on July 9, 2014 at 11:40am

good tips.  I don't mind discussing salary up front. I need to know if we should get in the sandbox and play. I'd hate to get further along in the process and then find out the candidates salary expectations exceed what I am able to offer. 

Comment by Kelly Mead, SPHR on July 9, 2014 at 1:39pm

I think we will be seeing more video interviewing in the future especially by larger, global companies. They serve not only as a replacement for a phone screen but also as a first interview which cuts down on travel expenses. Another benefit is that numerous people at different locations can participate in one interview which is a huge time saver.  I'm guessing that for now, smaller companies will probably stick with the traditional phone interviews but job seekers now have to be prepared for both.

Comment by Keith Halperin on July 14, 2014 at 3:22pm

Thanks, Kelly. Re: Answering a question, “I don’t know.”

I disagree with you here, at least in part. I think sincerely and non-apologetically admitting a lack of knowledge in a given area is better than trying to re-direct and avoid the question.

RE: video interviews- I think you should have them when they're too far away to come in, NOT instead of a phone interview.

Comment by Kathleen Smith on July 16, 2014 at 1:35pm

I would add that job seekers bomb a phone interview because they don't understand the importance of it, how it is a gatekeeper rather than a warm and fuzzy get to know you call. Furthermore, too many people do not know how to speak well in person or over the phone.


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