I had to hold a couple of phone interviews this weekend and I got the impression that there’s a desperate need out there for this information.  Remember, if you’ve put in all the effort to make yourself a serious job contender, to include having your resume professionally prepared and optimized for keyword searches, the telephone interview is not the time for you to slack off.  These are some of my favorite ways that a candidate can blow their chances at landing the job during the initial phone interview:

1-       By not taking the call            

I don’t care how many creditors you owe money to, if you have job applications out there, you’re in no position to be screening your calls.  Whatever phone number that you’ve listed on your resume, make sure that the line is in service and that you actually answer it, even if it shows up as “unlisted” or “private number”.  And if you’re working day shifts at your current job and they don’t allow personal calls at work, make certain that your voicemail service is working.  Also, stick to a professional-sounding recorded greeting (that means no “Whazzup?”, no music in the background, and no nicknames).  Last, since most of the companies hiring nowadays are BIG organizations, you should get in the habit of keeping a pen and notepad with you, so you can copy down exactly WHO you spoke to. 

2-      By taking the call on a cell phone.  While driving.  And eating a cheeseburger.

While I always recommend holding phone interviews on a land line instead of a cell phone, sometimes it’s unavoidable.  That’s okay, I’ll understand.  After all, I have a day job too.  But if you do have to use your cell phone, make sure to put a little thought into it.  Go somewhere without any background noise.  Your car is great, as long as it’s not moving.  The wind noise is distracting, plus knowing that you’re driving makes me feel like I don’t have your undivided attention.  And for the love of God, even if you have to make a phone interview during your lunch hour, DON’T EAT while we’re talking.  Tell the recruiter that you only have a set amount of time before you have to be back to work, and stick to it.  That way you’ll still have a few minutes to grab a bite, the recruiter will think of you as a dedicated employee, and you won’t be remembered as the guy who talked about his past experience through a Big Mac. 

3-      Don’t say anything.

“Yup.”  “Uh-huh.”  “Nope, no questions from me, sir.”    Look, dude, if I call you it’s because I want to hear what you have to say.  If I wanted to hear myself talk, I’d hold a conference call and I do that too much as it is.  The telephone interview is your chance to tell me about yourself, so make the most of it.  Sure, your resume looks great, but there’s no way anyone can fit all of their experience into one single piece of paper.  Make sure to tell the recruiter what he’s not seeing.  When a recruiter asks about a previous job, BRIEFLY mention your experience again, and most importantly, explain how that will translate into the new job.

4-       Don’t come prepared

You’d be surprised how many folks freeze up under pressure, especially the security contractors that I hire.  While it might be second nature for them to react to critical incident, a simple interview question might throw them entirely off base.  For example, what if a recruiter wants to know more about one of your previous assignments, since the skills are similar to the position you’re applying for?  Well, just like any other assignment, you’ll always perform better if you prepare in advance and keep the proper equipment close at hand.  Always have a copy of your resume and cover letter in front of you when you call for an interview.  That’ll help refresh your memory.  If you’re on the road or at your regular job, keep an extra copy in your car.

5-      By talking down about the job before you even have it.

I expect you to moan and groan, okay?  That’s a given on any job.  A lot of gripes are legitimate, and security isn’t always the highest paying career out there.  Workplace salaries are market driven, which means that the more qualified applicants that are out there, the less a company will be willing to pay you.  That’s life.  But remember, during an interview, an applicant is supposed to be asking to come to work for a company.  So, make sure to act like you want the job.  If the salary’s lower than you expected, it’s okay to ask about performance-based pay raises or if there’s any room for negotiation, but be as polite as possible.  Don’t blow your chances at an opportunity to build your career!  Who knows, something better might come along six months from now, and you’re much more marketable if you’re currently holding down a steady job.