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Phone Interview Etiquette

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
About 80% of the jobs are won or lost during the first five minutes of an interview session, and telephone interviews are no exception. Here, you will find some guidelines on the etiquette to be maintained for such an interview.
A phone interview is a great way of shortlisting a handful few candidates for personal interviews. It saves the hiring staff a lot of time that could be wasted upon meeting undeserving candidates. It gives the recruiter with an idea whether you are as strong as you appear on paper.
Sometimes, people are offered or declined job offers, solely based on phone interviews. Thus, the importance of such an interview cannot be undermined and in fact, you have to prepare even more for this round since your voice is the only tool you have to impress the interviewer. 
Let's look at the etiquette to be followed at various stages of the interview process:

Set the Stage

Being a job seeker, you must have surely dropped your resume in several organizations. Obviously, you must be expecting to hear from at least a few of them. The problem that many candidates face while responding to a telephone interview is that they simply cannot recall the name of the organization or the position they applied for.
Needless to say, this can belittle the recruiter and provide a negative first impression. Hence, always keep a job diary at hand, where you can make an entry of every vacancy that you have applied for.
The next step is to enable the hiring staff to reach you easily. Correctly mention your contact number and the time when you would be available. If possible, have a separate voice mail for every member in your house to ensure that the message reaches the recipient without delay or confusion. The answering machine's recorded message must sound professional.

Get Ready to Play Your Part

Now that you have made basic arrangements for the interview, you may concentrate on readying yourself for it. If the hiring staff calls you at the wrong time, you can politely ask them to arrange the call at some other time.
Most recruiters like their candidates to be composed and relaxed for the interview, hence, they are more than willing to reschedule the call as per the candidate's convenience. However, you might also come across recruiters who may not want to waste their time in calling you back and may simply move to the next candidate on the list.
Nonetheless, you should always ask for a suitable timing so that you don't let go of this opportunity without giving yourself a fair chance. Besides, this will give you enough time to prepare for the interview.
Call back the recruiter as early as possible, when you receive a message on your answering machine or voice mail. However, before you do, make sure you are prepared to face the interview, right then and there. Think about a quiet place to take your interview and make sure you will be alone when the phone rings.
Keep your resume at hand and be ready with a pen and paper to take notes. Anticipate a few of the interview questions and prepare your answers. Also, write down your own list of points, that you would like to put across. If possible, ask a friend to help you with a mock interview and record your voice to check how it sounds on the phone.


When the phone rings, compose yourself and pick up the receiver with confidence. Address the person according to his/her title and greet them politely (No first name calling unless you are asked to!). Always allow the interviewer to initiate the conversation and lead the session.
Gather your thoughts before replying to the questions; it is alright to pause for a few seconds before answering. Make sure your choice of words is precise and your tone is polite. Needless to say, slang and profanities are a strict no-no.
It is alright to take small sips of water (without letting the person on the other end know), but refrain from eating anything while you are on the phone. End your conversation by expressing appreciation for the interviewer's time and gratitude for granting you an opportunity.
Etiquette does not end when the call is done. You should preferably send a 'thank you' note to the recruiter and express a desire for a face-to-face interview. After all, the whole idea of a phone interview is to set the platform for a personal interview.