Telephone interviews — Joyce’s Career Tip of the Week

“Screening interviews”, as well as regular interviews, are frequently conducted via phone. Even though students today are usually seen using their cell phones, most of the time, they are communicating via text or in another way that is different from a traditional phone call. Unlike, Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, who spent a large part of their teen years socializing on a telephone, many of you might be uncomfortable (and possibly even stressed) by the idea of a “phone interview”. This is understandable. Allow me to share a few tips.

First of all, make sure that you have set your cellphone mailbox to accept messages; and, that you have recorded a professional sounding voicemail for answering calls. When you must leave a message, speak slowly and distinctly. Say your name, telephone number, and briefly, state the purpose of your call. I recommend that you spell your name, especially if it is uncommon. There are a few letters that are difficult to distinguish: b/d/p/t, s/f, and m/n. You could use the NATO phonetic alphabet; or, make up your own examples like I do. When spelling my last name, I say “Donahue, D as in David, O, N as in Nancy, A, H, U, E.” Remember, slowly and distinctly. On more than one occasion, I have not been able to return a phone call because I could not make out the person’s name and phone number.

When planning for a phone appointment, be sure to verify the time, especially since the person with whom you will be speaking may be in a different time zone. It’s a good idea to be available an hour earlier as well as later – just in case Daylight Savings Time causes confusion. Select a quiet place and use a landline, if possible. Believe it or not, when you are smiling, your voice sounds more pleasant. You could have a mirror or a sign that says “SMILE” to remind you.

Not being able to see the other person and read facial expressions and body language does present  challenges. Therefore, it is extremely important to listen very carefully and ask for a repeat or clarification if you are unsure of what has been said.

There are also some positives to the telephone interview. You do not have to be concerned about driving in traffic or figuring out where to go. There are no worries about a handshake with sweaty palms. You can spread out your notes, your resume and a list of questions you want to ask. Finally, remember to have a drink of water nearby.

If you would like to practice, phone appointments with Fulton Schools peer career coaches are an available option in Handshake.


Joyce Donahue is a Certified Career Counselor in the Fulton Schools Career Center.