Do’s and Don’ts of Phone Interview Etiquette

phone interview etiquette tips from etiquette expert Diane Gottsman

Do you have a telephone interview scheduled for a job you’ve set your sights on? Always remember the reason for the telephone interview is to impress the recruiter and convince him or her that you are worthy of a face to face interview. Make no mistake – this is an elimination process and it is in your best interest to do everything you can to prepare as if it were your only shot…because it may be. Take a look at a few of my telephone etiquette tips below:

Phone Interview Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts:

1Do your research before the interview. The person on the other end of the telephone can tell if you are quietly trying to open up your internet server and scan their website for information that you should have checked on before the call. Find out the key players, how long the company has been in business, what type of clients they serve and what their community involvement entails.

2. Do be equipment savvy. Don’t attempt to carry on a conversation on a cell phone if you have access to a land line. The reception is always most clear when you are sitting at a desk in a quiet room rather than a coffee shop or deli. Disable all other phone lines and make sure there is no background noise such as vacuum cleaners, barking dogs or children crying for their mid-morning snack.

3. Do make a connection. Once you have made the initial contact, and before the telephone interview, ask if you may send more information such as your professional website or blog for them to review. This allows the interviewer to form an initial impression (hopefully positive!) and put a face with a voice while he or she is speaking with you.

4. Do have questions ready.  Have a few carefully composed questions ready (and by your side) for the call.  This is where a phone interview is actually an advantage – you can read your questions from your notes to prevent stumbling.  Just remember to sound as natural as possible and don’t let the interviewer hear you shuffling papers!

5. Do have a snack before you answer the telephone. Overactive nerves may have you wanting to grab the bag of chips on your desk – avoid putting anything in your mouth while you are answering questions. Have a glass of water nearby or a warm cup of herbal tea to help you keep your throat clear. Avoid caffeine if you have a tendency to get jittery.

6.  Don’t fidget. Swinging from side to side of your chair, pacing the floor or twirling your hair can all be heard through the telephone line. Tapping on a pencil, clicking a pen and other nervous habits are distracting and come across as lacking self-confidence.  Do practice good body language and it will positively affect the tone of your voice and even boost your confidence level. When you feel good you look and sound good!

7. Don’t use speaker phone. Unless you are absolutely certain that your voice will come across crisp and clear, using a speaker phone may make your voice sound as if you are in a tunnel and the interviewer may have difficulty “reading” confidence and clarity in your voice. Always ask before putting anyone on a speaker phone.

8. Don’t interrupt. Listen carefully to the question and answer the question to the best of your ability. Be concise and to the point without rambling. Be careful not to interrupt the interviewer because you think you know what he or she is about to ask.

9. Don’t forget to follow-up.  An email thank you is an acceptable follow-up within 24 hours of the phone interview.  However, do not neglect to send a handwritten thank you note as well.  Drop your thank you note in mail the same day, while the interview is still fresh on your mind.

10.  Don’t forget to smile.  As silly as it may sound, wearing a smile during your phone interview is important.  Smiling improves your state of mind and gives your voice a cheerful boost.

Bonus tip: Although you will most likely be at home during your telephone interview, consider getting out of your pajamas and put on a professional business casual outfit. While you will not see the interviewer face to face, you will feel more composed, aware and ready to take on the day after the interview is complete.

Good Luck,


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.



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