Phone Interview Mistake

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make In A Phone Interview


I have to admit, with more than 12 years of hands-on experience interviewing candidates for various positions, I find the biggest mistakes aren’t made during the face-to-face interview – the ones that have really shocked me have been when I’ve interviewed a candidate over the phone.

What Not To Do In A Phone Interview

I find this especially serious for those who are looking to work from home or telecommute. So, if that’s you, listen up: I’m about to save you from making a mistake that will most definitely cost you the job.

I would assume, if you’re interviewing for a position, it’s because you want the job; I wouldn’t assume you’re just wasting your time and mine by having a phone interview if you weren’t truly interested in the position or didn’t want to learn more about it. Yet I find some candidates just don’t take the phone interview very seriously.

Let me be very clear here—the phone interview is the hiring manager’s first impression of you (aside from your resume, of course). You don’t want your first impression to be, “I don’t care enough about this position to use proper telephone etiquette.” Make it a good first impression.

If you are interviewing for a work-from-home position or a telecommuting position, then this is not only your first impression but may be the ONLY impression the hiring manager will have of you; and it’s even more critical to ensure you’re conveying your interest in the opportunity—but also that you take this position seriously.

The number-one way to turn off the hiring manager and ensure you don’t get the job is to conduct your telephone interview while driving.

Others may disagree with me, but to me, this is the biggest mistake you can make—especially if you want a work-from-home position. This tells me you don’t take the opportunity seriously enough to set aside dedicated time to talk without distraction. It also tells me your consideration for my clients will probably be about the same—or worse. If you don’t take the interview seriously, then the hiring manager will make the assumption you won’t take the position seriously either; and when it’s a work-from-home or a telecommuting position, that can be very damaging.

If you’re driving while interviewing with me, it tells me you’re distracted; you’re not taking notes, you’re not giving your complete attention to answering or asking questions, and you’re not evaluating the position. I can also hear the background noise, and it can be very distracting.

It’s critically important during a phone interview to communicate you value the interviewer’s time and you take the position seriously and will do your best. Putting your best foot forward during a phone interview shows the hiring manager you’ll put your best foot forward with their clients, customers, and needs.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, CEO of Great Resumes Fast is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, and presenter.


  1. I agree, driving and talking on cellphones is distracting and dangerous, regardless of the conversation. And Bluetooth is for necessary and urgent calls on the road, not potentially career changing opportunities! This is a big duh, as to being “expert advice”, but maybe you were out of substantive ideas for this week.

  2. What if the person interviewing you is driving? This happened to me once and it made me feel as if the hiring manager was only interviewing me as a courtesy and my time wasn’t valued. So it goes both ways.

  3. Thanks for this great advice and the remarkable insight you you possess in the matter. Please keep up the good work and continue writing.

  4. Apart from anything else.. isn’t it illegal in most places?

    I must admit, I thought this piece was going to reveal some subtle, often-overlooked interpersonal skill, but the point made is pretty obvious in the end. It’s on a par with phoning while drunk!

  5. I would be stunned to think that people interview from a car… except that I know that people use cell phones in the most unlikely places.

    I was once on a conference call where I swear I heard monkeys in the background for one caller. No one owned up to even being outside, let alone at the zoo, but seriously — make sure you have a quiet background (and won’t drop the call)!

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