Bad phone interviewJob interviews over the phone are incredibly common these days and, as a first step in the job application process, are just as effective as face-to-face meetings. Employers and employment agencies use interviews over the phone as a means to figure out which candidates are worth inviting to their office for an on-site interview. However, a lot of people do not take phone interviews too seriously, and make mistakes that are so simple to avoid.

During any type of interview, whether it be over the phone or in front of the prospective employer, never slack in your manners, tone of voice and how you go about presenting yourself. Employers interview more people than you would ever think, so they know what to look for when it comes to someone trying to sell themselves and are quick to identify when you slip up. If you’re preparing to step into a phone interview, be sure to familiarize yourself (and avoid!) these 5 rookie mistakes:

1) Not Finding a Quiet, Secluded Area

Man covers earsThis should really be a total given, but naturally, a lot of people think they can multi-task when they are on a phone call for an interview. Driving, walking your dog, or even making a snack is not the most appropriate move to make during an interview phone call. Regardless of how good you think your multi-tasking skills are, you are bound to get distracted which is rude, tells the employer that you really don’t care, and that apparently you have better things to do than find a job.

First of all, if you are fully aware of what day and time you are going to be on the phone with a potential employer, make sure you are 100% ready. Tell your roommates to be quiet, give your husband or wife the baby, kick the pets out of the room and make sure no noise is going to seep in. The last thing you need is for a potential employer to hear embarrassing background noise, such as someone in your house watching TV or the dog barking. Employers pay attention to every bit of detail, so make sure it’s nothing but quiet before you answer that call, and through the duration of the call.

To make the best impression possible over the phone, just stay home and don’t move around the room or house while on the call. Keep in mind that if an employer hears how noisy or rowdy your surroundings are, or if you are joining in and trying to keep it hushed, he or she will take note that you could be considered someone who horses around and isn’t focused on the task at hand. Such behavior is not usually tolerated in an office, or anywhere else respectable, so keep that in mind.

2) Becoming Distracted by Nothing

It’s not always easy to focus during a phone interview when your prospective employer is chatting away about the company, its history, etc. But this is your future! So sit up, stand up if you have to, and pay attention to what’s being said. The best solution to making sure that you will not be distracted no matter what, is to clear everything from that room. You want to avoid anything that can be fiddled with to the point when your attention shifts and anything that will catch your eye too much. For example, your cellphone or tablet, and if you’re in front of your computer (because you’ve opened the employer’s website) then close all instant messaging applications, log out of Facebook, etc.

In my opinion, one of the best areas to be in while on a phone call interview, is a hallway or front entrance. In most homes, usually there is nothing there but a wall picture or two. Sit there on a chair and just stare at the wall, listen to the employer and answer all the questions you are being asked. Interviews do not have to be like getting teeth pulled, and this is definitely not the time to be multitasking or doing anything that may avert your attention in the slightest way. (Don’t have such a hallway or front entrance in your house/flat? Try the bathroom. Sit on the side of the tub and just stare at the tiled wall where there is very little to distract you. However be wary of the bathroom echo – opening the window can help with that.)

Another common distraction in the home are pets. The dog barking in the background, the cat jumps up in your lap, etc. are all things you can do without during an interview. Likewise for the employer on the other end of the phone. All he or she cares about is whether or not you are the right fit for your job, and if you’re too busy playing with your pet to be serious, it’s a no-brainer for him or her.

3) Little to No Preparation

man covers faceIf you are lined up for an interview, please, figure out what to say before you get on the phone. One of the biggest mistakes is not thinking of something to say that will convince this employer to hire you before you have to say it. If you know that you are the best fit for the position, and can do wonders for the company, you need to convince the employer why. You might not be sitting face-to-face with the employer but a phone interview is the real deal and the employer will treat it as such. Do not, ever, decide to just ‘wing it’ through the interview. That never works, it’s not professional and it just wastes everyone’s time and blows a great opportunity for you.

One of the best ways to figure out what you would like the employer to know about you, and why you’d be such an amazing addition to the team, is to write everything down. Once you have a few lines of why you should be hired, narrow it down into 3 major points. Nine times out of ten, an employer will ask you the famous question; “why should I hire you?”, and if you do the previous steps, you will have the best available answer.

Once you’re asked the famous question, explain to the employer why you are the right person for the job. Read your 3 major points slowly, make sure to stay relaxed, but sound convincing at the same time. That being said, don’t lose track of time and if your points are taking too long to explain and the employer is rushing you, try to summarize them as best as you can – these points are most important so you want to make sure you get them across. The best way to figure out if your points won’t go over the time limit for the interview is to read them aloud by yourself prior to the interview and time yourself. The bottom line here – it all comes down to preparation.

4) Using the Wrong Tone of Voice

Man covers mouthDuring a face-to-face interview, employers are able to see your emotions and facial expressions, your attitude, body language and eye contact. Over the phone, however, they base your personality off your tone of voice. Think of it this way, if you sound like the Grinch over the phone, or just sound like someone who is not very pleasant with a lot of attitude, your name is going to get quickly crossed off the list.

You may not notice that you are acting totally cranky or inappropriate, but it’s easy for the employer to perceive it this way. If you’re not fully aware of how you sound, you’re not paying attention to the best of your abilities. During an interview, always make sure that you sound bubbly, friendly, and an overall eager person. If you sound dull, tired and cranky, you have next to no chance unless that is literally what they are looking for, but that’s unlikely…

The best way to sound your best, is to either sit up straight or walk around while on the phone. Standing up being the best option, because you’re constantly moving around and not sitting all slumped in a chair. Having good posture will do wonders for not only your back, but your tone of voice as well. Finally, speak with a smile to ensure that you sound cheery.

5) Not Having Resources at the Ready

Considering the fact that you are in an interview that is being conducted basically out of your own home, you’d be foolish not to have notes, your resume and your cover letter in front of you. Having all the correct information and your notes on what you should be saying to sell yourself, will give you the leg up on the situation. Use all the relevant information that you can, so you are constantly at the advantage point.

Besides, if the employer asks you how long you last worked at your previous job as a standard initial question and you can’t answer but he or she can, you’re off to a bad start. Employers will always have your resume in front of them during an interview, so doing the same will ensure you’re literally on the same (resume) page and ready for any questions/comments they make about your job history.

Finding a new job can be a lot of work but the interview process doesn’t have to be as difficult as it’s made out to be. All you have to remember is go somewhere that is appropriate for a private conversation, try your best not to be distracted, always be prepared, use a happy tone of voice and make sure you use the resources that you have access to. Job interviews over the phone can be nerve wracking, but they can also be very simple if you make it easy for yourself.