NO CELL PHONES for Interviews!!!
By Admin

March 24, 2010


If you want to make sure you conduct a poor phone interview with a recruiter or hiring authority, use your cell phone.

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Yes, I’m an old guy. I was around when phones were the “finger in the dial” kind. It made texting very difficult. I have a cool iPhone now, and use it for everything, except important business calls. Again, EXCEPT for important business calls where I have no choice. I try NOT to use it in the car. I value my life (and yours) too much.

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There are positives to be said about having a good old heavy hunk of plastic in your hand that is attached to a wire and then attached to millions of miles of copper:

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1)     The call is CLEAR. Let me repeat that: CLEAR. No zaps and frizzles and pops. Especially when you or the caller are trying to make logical points about a job or your background. Both of you can in fact, hear every word uttered (99.999% of the time). There are no misunderstandings about words that could cause YOU to lose a job offer. The WORST thing that can happen is that the call is dropped. And that can happen even if you are stationary.

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2)     You MAY think it cool to interview in your car, or bathroom or at a club. Even the mall. Simply put: It isn’t cool at all. The other person knows where you are by the sounds behind you. A land line typically doesn’t have those sounds in the background. Wonder why you keep getting axed for jobs or interviews? Review where you have been and what phone you were using on phone interviews.

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3)     The Land Line will let you HEAR EACH OTHER as though both of you are in the same room. CLEAR connections do that. You won’t sound like you are in an NASA wind tunnel, or in Russia.

4)     The other caller does not need to hear your Burger Flopper Drive Thru order. Especially if you just ordered a triple honker with extra sauce and told the girl to “Giant Size that HOG, BABY!!!”

5)     The big piece of plastic in your hand has a unique physical quality: It lets your voice RESONATE: It actually sounds like you. BIG, REAL and alive. Those little, breakable, tinny, cheap-ass or free Chinese-made whimp-phones the kids use will make you sound like a “mini-you”. Not real memorable when you are trying to make a “great first impression” (kind of like a resume with 20 spelling errors). Again: FIRST IMPRESSION IS IMPORTANT.

6) A land line forces you to sit down and focus on what you are doing (Interview, communicate). You can have a resume at hand, take notes and conduct a focused conversation. And guess what: you will SOUND LIKE YOU ARE A SERIOUS JOB SEEKER.

7)     You typically cannot walk far with a land line in your hand. Especially into the next room where your sister is playing this week’s hottest poof-song at volume number 12. Do you think the caller can’t hear you huffing and puffing as you walk up the narrow stairs from your parent’s basement for a Miller Light?

8)     When using a land line you don’t have to say, “Oh sure I can interview and shop at the same time, dude”, then turn to your partner and say “rad jeans dude!”

Here’s the down-low on phone interviews:

1)     Set up a work-space that is quiet, private and large enough to have ALL materials you will need for the interview. Tell your roommates, family, and friends to simply leave your space/ area/ you alone. A baby crying in the background will help you lose the job, regardless of what you think. Yes Mom, the 50 year old guy at the other end of the phone thinks that you should be professional.

2)     Have your resume, the RESEARCH you have done on the company you are interviewing with and accompanying notes with highlights, the ad copy if applicable, plus a blank pad of paper, two pens and a GLASS OF WATER…handy and reachable.

3)     The research: all information on the company, the person(s) you will be interviewing with, any info about products/ services, news releases, linkedin or social media profiles, and any other information you can find that would be applicable to the position for which you will be interviewing.

4)     Two Pens. One could run out of ink. Pencils lose lead or break.

5)     Water: Coffee will dry your throat out. The caller can also hear you take a big slug on that mug. Bottled water: The plastic will make a sound and when you take a swig, you will hear a gurgle. A Glass of water or even two will sustain you nicely.

6)     Put your phone on forward if YOU are to call the interviewer. That way you won’t get annoying call interruptions. Forward to your cell phone that is on mute and in another room. If they are calling you, then learn to make a brief excuse for a call coming in, NEVER put the interviewer on hold. If your family typically calls you, tell them the sacred time of the interview.

7)     Have someone else watch the dog. Fido will probably go crazy for that squirrel outside or have to go out, right at the time you need to be focused.

8)     Music: light uplifting mood music in the background ONLY. Light. JayZee rapping at level 7 in the background may be your good luck theme music. It doesn’t turn HR on, at all. Not in an interview.

9)     Prepare like an athlete. Get your body and voice limber, and your MIND. Make sure you challenge yourself mentally and verbally before the interview. Call someone to get your voice limber. Have play interviewer with you. (I am NOT joking). Run through tough questions (get a book on this. Every former HR Generalist of Corporate Manager has written a book on something Interview related. Me too). PRACTICE.

10)  Remember, this phone interview is CRITICAL. Blow it, and you don’t get an in-person meet..

11)  DON’T EAT HEAVY FOOD 1-2 hours before. That will put you to sleep. And even though you might think that you sound better after a small cocktail, you actually sound tipsy you idiot.

12)  Relax, but just enough to keep your edge. Easy for me to say, I talk for a living. Find your “competitive edge”. Don’t slump on a couch and don’t let your posture squeeze your stomach or lungs area. That is where the air comes from. Sit up straight. Breathe. But not so much you pass out.

What do you do if you DON’T have a land-line, or have to exit work and pretend to be smokin’ outside to interview: Make sure the other person is aware of your limitations, and ask if that is okay, or reschedule the interview.

For now, this list is long enough for you to get the basics. We’ll publish the Phone Interview Strategy next, and the actual pre-dive checklist.

Remember, no freakin’ cell phone. No dog, no baby and NO DRIVING WHILE INTERVIEWING.

Respectfully Submitted:

Robert Schepens

Employment Expert


  1. Hi Robert:

    Very entertaining post! You just confirmed for me why I have an unnatural attachment to my land line in this day of cell phones….

    I can remember the telephone interactions I had with the last two jobs I LANDED. One was on a payphone in the basement of the building across the street from my then employer. It was nice and secluded. The other was on my cell phone in the parking lot of a Giant Eagle….Ya gotta do what you gotta do, but I do try to minimize the noise.

  2. Brian Wilson

    Nice piece Bob,

  3. These are excellent tips. I think many also apply to conversations with clients and prospects. When I’m returning a call to a prospect I like to make sure I have water, a notepad, more than one pencil and my computer at hand. On the computer I’ll pull up the client’s Web site (if they have one) so I can reference it (or other related pages) if it comes up during the discussion. If I position myself correctly so that I can easily write or view the computer it makes life much easier.

    I also like the suggestion about warming up your voice. If you’ve been quietly working at your desk all day rather than talking to people, it can help to get those vocal cords ready. I recently gave a Webinar about blogging in which I was talking via phone while participants followed my slides on line. I’d also just come back from holiday with a sinus infection so was rather aware of how this was affecting my voice. For that I kept a glass of hot lemonade and honey by my side to try to diminish the gravelly sound and the accompanying cough. I think anything we can do to make the conversation run clear and keep ourselves focused on the tasks at hand will make a big impact. Something as simple as looking for a dropped pencil can be enough of a distraction to make you miss a key point in the discussion.

  4. Marc

    You know what else lets you hear each other like you’re in the same room? Being – in the same room!

    No matter if you’re using VOIP, mobile, landline, any phone you use is susceptible to those buzzes and pops. If interviewers want to capitalize on technology to save themselves time and money they should understand and respect the technology for what it is and not make idiot knee jerk reactions about a prospect because their phone sucks.

    That’s about as intelligent as judging a book by its cover, and will probably get them exactly the type of hire they deserve.

  5. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, unless you can dictate the “how”. r THANKS!!!

  6. Being in the same room, is right on the $!!!! I agree completely. This is for the candidate who has the choice what piece of plastic to use, where and when. Although the same applies for Interviewers

  7. Susie Sharp

    Bob, this is great stuff. Never thought about the noise a plastic bottle of water makes, or warming up one’s voice. One additional helpful thing I found when jobseeking is to get dressed in the morning like I’m going to work. Kinda sets the tone. I’m not one for job seeking in my pyjamas.