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Why candidates should avoid the phone interview

phone interview

You don’t build this type of connection with a phone interview

Avoid phone interviews

Yes, you heard me right. Avoid phone interviews. If you are stressed out about a phone interview you shouldn’t be. My advice is to try to skip the phone interview and I explain how later in this post. If you are already scheduled for the phone interview, don’t worry, in many ways, phone interviews are easier than in person interviews. We don’t have to worry about the dress code, interviews are usually much more high level and shorter in length. Phone interviews usually last no more than 30 – 45 minutes and this limits the number of questions an interviewer will ask you. We literally have the interviewer by the balls because with a limited amount of time, there are only so many questions that can be asked and these questions need to be targeted. This limit on time funnels the questions to a few specific questions we can prepare for. This is the easiest interview to prepare for so don’t play defense, play offense.

It may be too late, but please don’t take this the wrong way and think I am an asshole. Phone interviews are easier on myself as a recruiter or hiring manager as well. I personally don’t have to worry about what I am wearing, I can ask the phone interview questions from the comfort of my office while surfing porn and although the phone interview is very important, it is a lot more casual and holds a “check the boxes” attitude. I don’t have to go out into the lobby and greet a candidate with my dog and pony show smile. I literally do not have to “host a guest”. This doesn’t mean I don’t take the phone interview seriously, but at a subconscious level, because I have invested less energy in the candidate, I believe this interview is a liability to the candidate.

As a candidate, this is why we should try to avoid the phone interview at all costs. The recruiter’s attitude is more casual and since you have not met face to face, there is no personal connection. Frankly, it is a lot easier to decline you as a candidate and a lot easier to not return your phone calls if I haven’t met you in person. I know folks are going to hate on me for this, but really, I am trying to help. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

If you have complained about not hearing back from a recruiter or hiring manager in the past, it was probably after a phone interview. Nine times out of ten, if you had a face-to-face interview, you will receive a follow-up from the hiring company.

And this is where you can turn the tides on the interviewer. If you are asked to schedule time for a phone interview, do everything you can to meet the interviewer in person. Let them know you are going to be in the area and it is really easy for you to swing by. I recently worked with a candidate who was applying for a position that was located in a city 2 hours from where he lived. He knew that if he landed the job, he would move to be closer to the job but also knew that the distance would make him less of a candidate in the hiring managers mind.

A tactic that I often suggest when a candidate is out of the local area is to call up the recruiter and tell them that you are going to be in the area visiting family for a few days and you can drop by in person. Our candidate didn’t have family in the area and wasn’t planning on being in town. He didn’t understand where I was going with my suggestion.

“But I don’t have family in this town, I am not going to be visiting anyone.” he replied.

My response to our candidate’s statement was “But the recruiter doesn’t know this. Our goal is to get a face to face meeting with the recruiter and let them know that moving “back home” to be with family is your ultimate goal”.

The candidate responded. . . “Ohhhhh, I get it. That is just sneaky”.

I responded: “No, this is Nasty”.

Of course the recruiter took the bait and our candidate drove the 90 minutes for an in person interview which was initially scheduled as a phone interview. We know that we can make a much stronger impact in person. If the phone interview goes well, the recruiter will bring you in for a face to face. Lets speed up the process AND increase our chances of moving this interview loop forward. The entire point of the phone interview is to get to the in person interview. Job offers are NOT going to happen over the phone after a single phone interview. We NEED to get the in person interview. Yes, our out-of-towner got the job.

How often do you hear about a sales person taking a last-minute flight to see a potential customer in person? How often does a sales person have a face-to-face meeting when a signature is involved to close a deal? You won’t see a professional sales person try to conduct a sale over the phone if their potential customer is relatively easy to meet with in person. As candidates, we need to take on the attitude of a professional sales person. Want one more example? If you met Mrs. Right, and found out she lived 90 minutes away, would you just let the two ships pass in the night, or would you drive the 90 minutes and give it a chance? If she is your Mrs. Right, yes, we would make the trip. We wouldn’t think twice about it.  

When I call a candidate to ask phone interview questions, I really only have one goal: figure out if this candidate is worth meeting in person. Do I get the confidence that this candidate will make a good impression to the hiring manager and the VP of the department. 

For those of you wondering why, as a recruiter I try not to conduct the initial interview over the phone, I try not to. If the LinkedIn profile presents a candidate that has a professional presentation layer, I do everything I can to skip the phone interview and get an in person first impression. Remember, I want to make a great impact as well. They both take the same amount of time. In some geographic areas, I may be sensitive to bringing in the candidate multiple times, finding and paying for parking etc., but when ever I can, I try to go straight to the in person interview.

If I have called you for a phone interview, you can be assured that I have done a few things. Gave your resume a thorough review and checked out your social profile. If you present like an illiterate hunchback of Notre Dame on LinkedIn or Facebook, even if you rock the phone interview, it isn’t worth it to me bring you in for a face to face. This may or may not be fair, but I can’t take any chances. If the hiring manager finds a picture on-line which looks immature or un professional, then I will have questions to answer. The questions aren’t going to be a friendly offer for drinks after work. They are going to be accusations of doubt and questions on my competency. “Did you see this picture of this candidate you sent me?”

I said that I would have phone interview questions. I have blogged about phone interview questions here. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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  • Anonymous

    How on earth do you really check the social media of candidates before phone screenings? When each job has most likely hundreds of candidates, no way does a recruiter spend their time to check out hundreds of social media profiles when they don’t otherwise know whether to proceed with people, and if there is more than one job they’re recruiting for, definitely not, unless they just maximize in inefficiency. I call horseshit on that. Only people who think the world revolves around them would believe this obvious bullshit.

    • Here is the deal, I do NOT check out hundreds of profiles. I may get 100 resumes for a job in a week, but I try to parse that down to 5-10 resumes of which I will take the top 4-5 to the hiring manager. I will do a quick search on only these 4-5 resumes because the manager will check these. The manager won’t see the other 95 resumes that didn’t qualify for the job so I don’t need to check their social profiles.

      Of the 4-5 that I do check out I find a picture of someone drunk or acting stupid or questionable, I go back to the pile of 5-10 and find the next best. I am only going to the hiring manager with 4-5 solid options that I have a high likelyhood of making an offer with.