phone interview

Doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, pick up the phone!

Phone interview

“The phone interview is where you make your first impression.  Your voice and attitude are the ONLY things I have to go on during the phone interview.  Negative examples and rude behavior are only amplified over the phone because I take my cues from your voice, and the voice tells all.”

You have sent out your resume, and are now waiting for the call from a recruiter.

As a guy that has called on hundreds of candidates, I thought it might help to let you know what myself and most recruiters are thinking as I go through the process.  Some of this won’t be admitted to publicly, but trust me, it happens, and this is why I wear a mask and dark glasses.

If your online profile checks out, my next step is either a phone call or email, depending on my timeline.

When I call a candidate for a phone interview, I am looking for a couple of things:

  • I want someone to answer the phone when I call.  I don’t want to leave a message.  If you have caller ID and don’t recognize a number, PICK IT UP!!!!  That could be your next employer calling.
  • I am on a timeline to fill this position with hiring managers breathing down my back.  You wouldn’t want to follow up or leave a message and I don’t either.
  • If I get a message, I want it to be a message that would work within our business setting.  I don’t want to hear Rod Stewarts “Do ya think I’m sexy” and a beep.  I don’t want to hear an automated voicemail that has your +1 yelling in the background or some cutesy message.
  • If I am going to leave a message, I want to know I called the right person.  Your message should confirm who I called.  I want something polite, energetic, and is just that, “a message”.  Nothing more, nothing less.

If I do get a real person, I want to hear something that would be business appropriate and would delight our customers.  Yes, I said it, “delight”.  I want to hear a smile come through the phone, I want to hear energy, and would love to hear the candidate announce their first name.  A flat hello followed by silence is not business appropriate and although I won’t hang up immediately, the clock is ticking and the  conversation hasn’t even started.

This is my very first impression of you, and within 5 seconds I am trying to figure out if I can bring you in to the office without embarrassing myself.  Remember, you are going to be representing me, I am going to put my reputation on the line for you when I present you to the hiring manager, so I have to figure out if you are “with me”, or “not”.

In an effort to minimize my disappointment on this initial call, I will announce myself and give you a hint.  I will literally say something like this:  “My name is HRNasty and I work with a company called Acme Publishing.  You applied for a position with our sales group and I was wondering if you were still looking for new opportunities.  I realize I am calling un announced, is this a good time?”

I don’t know how many times I get the following even before I can introduce myself:

  • “Huh?”
  • “Yeah”
  • “Uh Huh”
  • “What did you say?”
  • “You finally called, what took you so long?”

So many people answer the phone as if they are expecting a telesales person.  With any one of the above answers, the conversation is over.  Why?  Because at our company, we want people to answer every phone call like it is a customer on the line.  We don’t want to train someone how to answer a phone.

Great answers sound like:

  • “Thank you for calling, I have been really excited about this opportunity since I first heard about it.”
  • “Yes, this is a great time.  I have heard so many great things about your company!”
  • “Thanks for calling, can you give me one minute, I want to move to a quieter place.”
  • “Thank you for calling.  I am at a restaurant; I am in a meeting, can I call you right back in 15 minutes?  I am really excited to talk about the opportunity.”

Sounds corny as I write it, and sounds cornier as I read it back, but trust me, this stuff works.   The tone has been set and here is why:

  • I don’t feel like I have to explain myself
  • I feel welcome
  • I feel like I have someone that isn’t just looking for a job, but wants to be with ACME Publishing.

See the theme in the two sets of bullet points?  Excitement has been conveyed by the candidate and the words “I feel” from me.

When you called your first high school crush, and the answer was positive and welcoming, “Game on!”    If she said “I am so happy you called, I was hoping I would hear from you” the tone was set for the rest of the conversation.  When you called your first crush and got the “yeah, what do you want?” regardless of your crushes “intent”, the “impact” was felt.

Make me feel like your first crush.

Like any phone interview, I will have a few standard questions.  You should know these are coming and be prepared:

  • Can you tell me what you know about the company.  (This is a test, how interested are you?)
  • What are you looking for in a new position?
  • How much are you looking for?  ( I want to know if we are in the same ballpark financially)
  • When can you come in to talk?  (Hint, if you are really interested, you will move your schedule)
    • When the hot girl called you up for a date, you dumped mom’s Sunday dinner to make it.

After you get off the phone interview send a thank you email.  Send it postal mail to the attention of the recruiter if you didn’t get the email address.

If you are asked to come in to interview in person (congratulations!).  Send a thank you email including the following:

  • Reinforce that you are excited about the opportunity
  • Confirm the time and date of your interview.
  • Keep it short


  • ask about benefits
  • ask about pay  (the recruiter will ask about this)
  • ask about vacation, parking, time off

See the theme?  At this point, the conversation is about meThis phone call isn’t about the candidate “yet’.

Do feel free to ask me:

  • What do you like about the company?
  • What attracted you to the company?
  • Any advice for me?  (you will be surprised how easy this is, remember, you represent me)
  • How did this position become open?  Is it a new position?  (Don’t ask if someone got fired)

This interview will probably be short.  The recruiter will make a pretty quick decision based on your social profile, blog, and profile picture, and this conversation whether or not they feel you will be a “fit”.  Help them keep it short.

A phone interview is to confirm what is already suspected.  Based on the resume and the your social skills over the phone, I just want to confirm your skill set and personality fall within the parameters so I can bring you in.

Good Luck!


nasty:  an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone that is good at something.  “He has a nasty forkball”.

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  • Michael

    Did you HAVE to post the picture of the girl in the bikini to attract readers? Jeez you hyNasty

  • Shona

    If you call someone during business hours, there is a good chance you will get their voicemail. I’m in the job market, but I do not take personal calls on my current employer’s clock. If I am tied up with work responsibilities, then I’m sorry, you must leave a message. When I’m on my break, or lunch, I’ll call you back. I’m sorry, but this advice is very inconsiderate in this regard!

  • Him

    the writer can’t spell, punctuate or use prepositions properly. I read online articles as with a new book, I expect to learn. Everything I’ve read since I was 18 I’ve known it all before due to my own experience and it doesn’t change

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  • Anon

    Biggest load of crock ever written. If this is how you select or reject candidates then I pity the company you work for.

    I don’t know how many times I get the following even before I can introduce myself:



    “Uh Huh”

    “What did you say?”

    “You finally called, what took you so long?”

    So many people answer the phone as if they are expecting a telesales person. With any one of the above answers, the conversation is over. Why? Because at our company, we want people to answer every phone call like it is a customer on the line. We don’t want to train someone how to answer a phone.

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  • gander2112

    Great post as usual Mr. Nasty. The only quibble I would point out is if it is an unsolicited call from a recruiter on a fishing expedition, if they are blocking caller ID, I ignore the call. It never ceases to amaze me that head hunters (retained professionals) hide that meta data on calls.

    Of course, if I dropped my resume, and am interested in a position, then I behave differently.

    • HRNasty

      You are absolutely right! I wouldn’t call it “fishing”, I would call it bottom trolling.

  • Larry McKeogh

    Tried and true wisdom. This post reads like a script of my phone interview today. I believe I executed to plan and hopefully will hear back by the end of the week.

    • HRNasty

      Mr. McKeogh,
      Thanks as always for the support and glad you are proving out these humble theories. Let me know if I can help in anyway!

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  • marvinawhite blog

    Thanks ! Super Post !!

  • Curtis

    Looks like you are an expert in this field, great post and keep up the good work, my buddy recommended me it.

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  • Evelyn Amateur

    Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.