Dodge These 7 Common Phone Interview Mistakes

Smiling businessman working on laptop in urban park

By Hannah Morgan

Has this ever happened to you? Out of the blue, your phone rings. It's someone from a company you supposedly applied to but you didn't catch the company name or the job title. This scenario is fairly common, and how you manage it can determine whether you move on to the next interview or not.
If you are new to job searching, there are hundreds of situations like this you haven't experienced before. To help get you up the curve faster, here are some phone interview scenarios you need to know how to handle.

1. "What job is this again?" It may not be possible to remember every job you've applied to. The reality is, if you're actively job seeking, you've applied to a lot of positions. It is your responsibility to be able to track and reference the jobs you've applied to by job title and company. In a recruiter's mind, her job is the only one you have applied to. In other words, she may not provide you with the full job title and company name. Don't feel embarrassed to ask for more information or to clarify the job she is calling about. Simply ask her what company she is with and to describe the job further.

2. Conversations on the road or in public. You don't need to stay at home waiting for a call, but you do need to be aware that any call you answer could be from a potential employer. Don't be afraid to ask if you may reschedule an unexpected call if the conditions aren't right. You want to make the right first impression. If you intend to have a phone interview from your mobile, make sure you won't be distracted and can access your files with the job posting and the resume you used to apply.

3. Not knowing the interview format. Do you know if the recruiter will conduct the interview via phone or video? Do you know how long your conversation is scheduled to last? There is no normal set of guidelines for interviews today. Each company has a unique approach, so it is up to you to ask questions in order to know what to expect. You should collect these details to ensure that you're fully prepared and perform your best during the interview.

4. Missing the point of your introduction. How you respond to "Tell me about yourself" can make or break the interview. This question is technically the interviewer's way of asking why you are qualified for the job and a match for the company. Using your research, match your top two to four qualifications with the job requirements. Also include why you are specifically interested in the role and company. This is just an introduction. Keep your answer around a minute, so you don't overwhelm the interviewer.

5. Dismissing insider information. While researching the company, you may have heard words, such as "micromanage" or "toxic." Don't jump to conclusions. Instead, use this information to formulate questions you ask during the interview, such as, "Tell me about one of your best employees and how you supported their development?"

6. Not knowing your salary range. Expect an employer to ask how much you made in your last job and how much you would like to make in the job you are applying for. These are two different questions and help the company assess if you fit within their budget and what your value is. Stating a number too high or too low could eliminate you prematurely. To prevent this from happening, use salary calculators and industry contacts to gauge what the company may offer. You could even ask what the company budgeted for the role, rather than providing your answer. If your past salary and expected salary are in line with your research findings, you may choose to state a salary range. However, if your past salary or expected salary is not close to what the company is offering, you are better off deferring your salary answer until later in the conversation once you have a better understanding of the job requirements.

7. Not addressing lacking qualifications. It is unlikely that you'll have everything the company wants. Prepare an explanation for how you will come up to speed in the areas where you fall short. For example, if you don't have specific software experience, you should at least know what it does. Talk with someone who uses the software and find out if the software is similar to anything you have used before, how difficult it is to master and where you can get training. When asked about your software skills, address how you intend to come up to speed on the software you are missing. The same logic applies to any skill or experience you are lacking. Speak with someone who is knowledgeable and construct an answer on how you would bridge the gap. If the interviewer doesn't bring it up, you can provide your skill gap solution anyway. You don't want to leave issues that may eliminate you unaddressed.

Originally published