For many job seekers, the first interaction they have with an employer is over the phone. But for some, it may be the first and the last contact if they’re not prepared to follow proper phone interview etiquette.
There are several phone interview etiquette issues you need to think about when preparing for a call from an employer. Also—there are several you need to be prepared for when you’re not expecting a call from an employer.
What will you do if the employer calls while you have a mouth full of food in a noisy restaurant? What if you’re at your current job and you have nosy cubicle mates who will eavesdrop? What if you can’t recall anything about the job for which you applied? And what if you're not in-the-know on answers to some of the most common interview questions that could come your way in an interview?
With a little preparation, you can ensure you follow important phone interview etiquette rules and are ready to handle any issue that might crop up, ensuring you impress the employer.
Below are some things to think about when it comes to phone interview etiquette.
Maybe you have an outgoing message on your phone that your friends think is absolutely hilarious, or perhaps your dog barks out a greeting, but it’s not good phone interview etiquette. Employers will likely find it unamusing or immature. If you’d rather not reveal your full name in your outgoing message for security reasons, you can still just use your first name and ask the person to leave a message.
For the times when you do answer your phone (and you don’t recognize the number), say something like “This is Mark Jones,” which sounds more professional than a casual “hello.”
Have Your Job Application House in Order
It’s easy to lose track of your job search and not remember all the jobs for which you’ve applied, but it’s not using good phone interview etiquette to say “Who?” when the employer calls. That’s why it’s important to keep track of all job you’ve applied for, and have a mini-job log with you or near your phone.
When You Miss the Contact
If the recruiter calls and leaves a message for you, return the call as soon as you can. Since the recruiter may have called 10 other people that day about the same or a different position, it’s considered good phone interview etiquette to give your full name and indicate that you are returning the recruiter’s call regarding the xxx position, should you get their voicemail.
If the recruiter’s message was left for you at 1 p.m. and you didn’t get it until you returned home at 7:30 p.m., immediately call and leave a voicemail. Again, give your full name, state the specific position you’ve applied for, and provide your contact information for the next business day. And definitely be prepared to talk in case the recruiter is still working and wants to do a phone interview at that time.
If the recruiter calls and leaves a message for you, return the call as soon as you can.
When You’re There for the Contact
The standard recruiting rap goes something like “Hi Lauren, this is Brad calling from the New England Aquarium in Boston. I’m calling regarding our water-quality position and would like to spend about 10 minutes on the phone with you asking some preliminary questions. Is this a good time to talk, or could I arrange a time to call you back?” Most recruiters will use such phone interview etiquette, particularly when calling a candidate at her current place of employment.
Many recruiters like to make sure that it’s a convenient time for the candidate—in fact many will arrange a time with you in advance, via email.
Where there is less universal agreement among recruiters, however, is in your answer. Many recruiters want you to talk to them when they call, and may not want to call again later. They may have only one or two clarifying questions that would take just a few minutes, or they may want you to answer an hour’s worth of questions on the spot. Some may prefer the candidate have time to prepare and prefer a prearranged time in a quiet spot.
If you are good on the phone and quick on your feet, you may want to go ahead with the interview. If you are in the middle of something or can’t remember what the job is, it may be best to suggest an alternate time.
A good way to handle this goes like this: "I’m so happy you called. I am in a busy restaurant/ driving/at work. Can you give me 10 minutes to get somewhere quieter/more private and call you back?" This way, you are expressing your interest and suggesting a time to connect later.
While you are talking, follow good phone interview etiquette and make sure that your phone battery is not about to run out, and that your roommate is not planning to run the vacuum. You must be able to concentrate. It may help to have your research, resume, and the job ad in front of you, and to have a pen in your hand to take notes. (The clacking of computer keys as you take notes is annoying and considered poor phone interview etiquette.)
Phone interview etiquette also calls for you to be clear about whether or not you can hear the interviewer.
Don’t say: “Can you speak up?”
Do say: “I’m having trouble hearing you. Can you hear me clearly?”
The latter is less confrontational and it clarifies whether the connection between you is bad or if the problem is on the recruiter’s end.
As with any interview, be prepared to ask questions at the end. You want to have the recruiter(s) hang up with a good impression of your interest in the company. Make sure to ask for word from the recruiter on what the next steps are.
While you are talking, follow good phone interview etiquette and make sure that your phone battery is not about to run out, and that your roommate is not planning to run the vacuum. You must be able to concentrate.
One other piece of advice? Remember to remember to smile as you do the interview and either stand or sit up straight. Believe it or not, it makes a difference in the sound of your voice, especially when you talk about achievements or express enthusiasm about the company.
When the Call Wraps
Immediately after the call, write a short thank-you email to the recruiter: “Thank you for spending time with me on the phone today talking about the enrollment-management position. I enjoyed the conversation and have a better understanding of the job. I’m very interested in the position, and would welcome the opportunity to further discuss my candidacy.”
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